If you can get past its extremely farfetched premise and rather homely execution, the Australian film “The Bank” emerges as an amusing economic potboiler about corporate chicanery and personal revenge. You might call it a much slimmed-down financial version of “The Firm,” or– given the plot’s simultaneous dependence on the notion of mathematical genius and emphasis on fighting corruption from within–“A Beautiful Insider.” It’s hardly memorable, and on reflection the plot holes are likely to seem overwhelming, but while it’s unspooling the picture has a modest charm.
Director Robert Connolly’s script juxtaposes two complementary plots. The lesser of them has to do with Wayne and Diane Davis (Steve Rodgers and Mandy McElhinney), a lower-class couple whose angelic young son is accidentally killed while trying to evade a process server from Centabank, the impersonal conglomerate that’s seizing the family business as a result of their default on a loan they were unscrupulously advised to take out; seeking damages, the grieving parents join with an activist lawyer (Mitchell Butel) to bring suit against the bank, though they’re warned that the likelihood of success is slim. Meanwhile Simon O’Reily (Anthony LaPaglia), the arrogant CEO of Centabank who’s anxious to increase revenue at the behest of an insistent Board of Directors, gives a spot on his staff to Jim Doyle (David Wenham), a computer specialist who claims to be on the verge of perfecting a software program that will precisely predict the movements of the world’s financial markets; O’Reily supplies the apparently naive Doyle with the staff and resources needed to complete his work in hopes that the bank can profit handsomely by having foreknowledge of economic trends. Jim, meanwhile, becomes romantically involved with a bank employee (Sibylla Budd), though he’s not entirely certain that she isn’t O’Reily’s mole. Ultimately the two strands of the narrative coalesce. To prove his loyalty, Doyle must give false testimony that undermines the Davises’ case, leading Wayne to contemplate a more direct mode of revenge. Simultaneously, Jim completes his work and announces to O’Reily that a financial crash is imminent, which the firm can take enormous advantage of–provided that it’s willing to violate all sorts of banking laws and put its very existence at stake. Unknown to O’Reily, however, there are certain aspects of Doyle’s past which cast the young man’s motives in doubt.
It’s clear that Connolly is playing to viewers’ suspicions of corporate malfeasance and their delight in seeing it unmasked and punished; and to leave no doubt as to where audience sympathies will lie, he fashions O’Reily into a supremely odious villain–sleek, shark-like and utterly amoral. LaPaglia has great fun playing the devilish fellow–what actor, after all, could resist a role that includes lines like “I’m like God, but with a better suit”? No one else really matches him. Wenham, who appears as Faramir in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” puts his blandly boyish good looks to decent use as Doyle, but he’s utterly outclassed, and as the little man on a mission Rodgers is only adequate. Nor is the picture technically much more than competent; Tristan Milani’s cinematography has a grainy, washed-out look, and the production design leaves something to be desired–the piles of computer equipment that are supposed to look so impressive, for instance, actually come across as amusingly chintzy.
But though “The Bank” is never remotely convincing and seems almost ridiculously small-scaled and visually constricted for its supposedly world-shaking plot, it succeeds as an implausible, manipulative but moderately enjoyable crowd-pleaser.