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I got the DVD out of this 2001 film with some anticipation. After all, the credentials of the film looked really good: an Australian film, starring Anthony LaPaglia, a diatribe on global corporatism and, especially, the banking system and, to top it all, a winner for Best Original Screenplay at the prestigious AFI Awards.
Well, unfortunately, the film was, in its entirety, very disappointing. For one, it did not deserve to win Best Screenplay at the AFI or any other awards show for that matter. Conceptually the film did indeed have its merits but, alas, that does not necessarily a great screenplay make. What the film had brimming in promise (read: concept), it lacked sorely in true substance and, above all, plausibility (read: a good story). The plot line was simply not entirely believable and, quite frankly, it wrapped itself up just a tad too neatly at the end. For example, the lead character's true identity (and one of the turning points upon which the film's so-called 'final twist' relied) was executed very clumsily and unconvincingly. This screenplay worked neither as taut social commentary or satire nor as a dark drama/thriller and, in failing to work within a strong genre, it completely lost its impact. The script, whilst having some notable one-liners and observations about the banking/corporate world was, still quite poor in terms of real plot development and emotional buy-in.
The direction by director-writer Robert Connolly was competent without ever excelling in terms of plot revelation, mood depiction or genre-shaping flow. Simply put, the film lacked real drive, emotion or excitement and, frankly, the blame must rest squarely with the director; a director that, whilst seemingly assured and technically sound, lacked vision and verve in his execution here. As a result, the film is strangely flat, oddly devoid of any exciting build-up and simply does not linger in the memory.
Technically, the film cannot be outright faulted, but neither does that make it technically excellent. The photography by Tristan Milani was appropriately severe and steely-blue. Yet, the depiction of a corporate-geared Australian city (for a non-Australian, one struggles to know whether it's Sydney or Melbourne?) without real identity and sense of place was, in fact, a negative for the film's sense of mood depiction. The blame there should lie with director and cinematographer. The editing, particularly in regard to the computer graphics and F/X, had some merit, although, once again, a sense of verve was required here too. The worst culprit, however, was the at times clanging and even jarring musical score by Alan John. This is one score that ranged from being eerily excellent to downright annoying and distracting; ultimately, any excellence thereof was diluted.
In terms of acting, the saving grace of this film was indeed Anthony LaPaglia. His presence was broody, exacting and menacing, without resorting to the caricature of what a rich, corporate asshole should be portrayed. Kudos to him for a retrained, pitch-perfect performance. Unfortunately, the acting by the other actors in the film was far from riveting or even that good; a surprising letdown hardly ever seen in Australian cinema. The lead actor, David Wenham, had some moments of adequate intensity and character truth but, as a whole, he came across as insipid and unconvincing as a clearly left-leaning mathematical genius. Sibylla Budd as the (totally unnecessary and badly written) love interest simply came across as a very poor actress. She flinched and fluttered her eyelids at all the wrong moments and the intensity of her fledgling and confused feelings for our intrepid lead man were simply unconvincing and untouching.
The film's highlights? LaPaglia, some of the core social and banking-related issues that are wittily remarked upon and a (limited) amount of interesting social commentary. But, ultimately, this was a film that could have been, should have been, and simply fails. It had such contemporary, relevant and dynamic themes to run with and yet, throughout, it came across as merely derivative, unconvincing and even quite dull. This all made "The Bank" an even bigger letdown than most other disappointing films and its critical/award success even more puzzling and quite undeserving. The pedigree was all there but the chance to be a real winner of a film was simply lost.
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