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BANK, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Clever Jim (David Wenham) grows up with a rare gift for mathematics and computers, a talent that leads him to a unique position at CentaBank, at the right hand of its ruthless CEO, Simon (Anthony LaPaglia). His specially designed software promises to forecast stockmarket trends so accurately that its owner can make a killing in a matter of hours, leaving millions to face financial ruin. While perfecting the programme Jim begins a romance with teller Michelle (Sybilla Budd) but begins to suspect she is a plant acting for the bank. Simon sees Jim’s program as his chance at eternal corporate glory, and sweeps everyone along with him. But there are other factors at work that only Jim knows about. Meanwhile CentaBank is being sued by Wayne (Steve Rogers) and his wife (Mandy Mcelhinney), who have recently lost their son and their business after taking out a high risk foreign currency loan with the bank.

If you think The Banks are bastards, you’ll buy a sheaf of tickets to The Bank, and give a few to your bank manager and his bosses – if you can find him or them – so you can watch them squirm. It’s a corporate thriller in which the story carries the theme, as it were. The theme is antipodean post-80s ‘greed is good’ - but re-focused. Told with a sub plot that winds its way to an explosive meeting with the main plot, The Bank is impressive for its style and structure, and for three riveting performances from Anthony LaPaglia as Simon the ruthless US boss of the bank, David Wenham as Jim, the protagonist who doesn’t seem to be driving the plot, and Sibylla Budd as Michelle, the banking girl who falls for Jim before she realises how complicated he is. Wenham pours himself into this leading role and judges the nuances required to make it work as effective drama in a role driven by ambiguity. It’s a difficult film to discuss without giving away some key elements - elements which might lessen the film’s impact if known in advance. So stay tuned when watching. It is a much bigger looking film than the (average) budget suggests, and has an uncannily familiar score – but familiar only through its recollection (tribute?) to scores from as varied sources as Bernard Herrman’s for North by Northwest, Philip Glass and others: eclectic and varied, it offers a clear indication of the filmmakers’ wish to position the film as a mainstream genre hit. If you think it’s a bit simplistic in its bank bashing, you are probably a banker.
Andrew L. Urban

The three story strands intersect in a stunning dramatic twist in The Bank, a gripping David and Goliath story about greed, manipulation, morality on a cutting edge technological background. Essentially a two-hander with Anthony LaPaglia and David Wenham at the helm, the film resonates as surely as coins jingle in a piggy bank. And piggy the bank is, indeed. Is it about our collective experiences with banks that make us boo and hiss at this corporate villain, and cheer inwardly when it goes down? Who me? Never! If this feeling of 'sympa' makes for interesting film themes, imagine the script potential for stories about speed camera operators, tax collectors, parking fine attendants and so on. Oh, the excitement! But I am getting carried away…. back to The Bank. You can rest assured that you will walk out of the cinema well satisfied. LaPaglia is wicked and very smooth as 'Greed is Good' Simon O'Reilly. His body language, the way his tongue slides menacingly between his lips, coupled with extraordinarily restrained energy, makes him a formidable adversary. My favourite line is 'I'm like God, but with a better suit', but there are many others - 'bastards without borders' is one. I'd be happy to move into Simon O'Reilly's decadent offices or dream pad anytime. Wenham effortlessly coalesces Jim Doyle's deep complexities into a totally accessible package; we like him, we are intrigued but we are never in doubt that there is much more to the character. Writer/director Robert Connolly gives the film a great sense of place, and Melbourne positively sparkles. Striking production design and an elusive score allow the location to be identifiable, but in fact could be anywhere. There's plenty of tension and the final showdown leaves nothing to be desired. The Bank is a ripper.
Louise Keller

There's a moment in The Bank when one of the main characters says "it's quite simple...I just hate banks". It was at that moment I felt the strongest collective swell of agreement I've ever experienced in a cinema. If timing really is everything the stinging satire of The Bank couldn't have arrived at a more opportune moment. Plot and logic-wise, this is a little rocky at times but it's easy to forgive because the idea is so strong, the sentiment so well tuned and we have a wonderfully hissable villain in the shape of Simon O'Reilly. Crackingly played by Anthony LaPaglia, he's the kind of loathsome egomaniac who lectures Jim about "new corporate feudalism, and we are the new princes". You know he's going down in the end and you can't wait for it to happen. Anticipation of the big moment when O'Reilly and Centabank place everything on the line is so strong it smooths over a secondary story that's essential to the plot but not nearly as effectively staged. The trials of Aussie battlers Wayne and his wife don't fit smoothly into the picture until the half way point; eventually coming good in the incident packed final act. A delightful streak of Australian larrikin/anti-authoritarian humour keeps it on the boil and debut writer-director Robert Connelly has done an admirable job with a splendid cast and makes a modestly-budgeted film look much more expensive. His eye for locations and compositions is a major plus in keeping this comic thriller lively and absorbing. Do not expect financial institutions to advertise at cinemas showing this. Do expect a very entertaining 104 minutes watching a fictitious bank getting what the real ones deserve.
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with
ANTHONY LAPAGLIA

Read Brad Green's SOUNDTRACK REVIEW with audio excerpts

See the TRAILER

BANK, THE (M 15+)
(Aust)

CAST: David Wenham, Anthony LaPaglia, Sibylla Budd, Steve Rodgers, Mitchell Butel, Mandy McElhinney, Greg Stone, Kazuhiro Muroyama

DIRECTOR: Robert Connolly

PRODUCER: John Maynard

SCRIPT: Robert Connolly (Based on an idea by Brian Price & Mike Betar)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Milani

EDITOR: Nick Meyers

MUSIC: Alan John

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Luigi Pittorino

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Footprint Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 6, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: AV Channel

VIDEO RELEASE: February 13, 2002







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