The Banker Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

African American Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) was born in Texas in 1922. In his youth, he took on any job, then slowly created his own small cleaning business. But Bernard was primarily interested in investing in real estate, that was his goal. He knew that in Texas, a southern state where Confederate flags are flown in many homes and where racial segregation is rampant in all areas of life, little shines for him, so when he got the opportunity, Bernard and his family moved to Los Angeles. Angeles to his wife’s family.

In Los Angeles, he first managed to persuade Irish-born businessman Patrick Barker (Colm Meaney) to sell him an apartment house with installment payment, and when Barker saw how accurately Bernard fulfilled all his promises, he completely made him his partner at the rate of “50 50”: together they bought, renovated and resold real estate in wealthy areas of Los Angeles.

However, at some point, Barker died, his heiress put Bernard out of business, paying him only a quarter of the amount for his assets in the joint venture, and then Garrett had to look for a new partner.

They became Joe Morris (Samuel Al Jackson), the offspring of a wealthy African-American family, who received a good inheritance and managed to increase it: he owns several buildings in wealthy areas and two nightclubs.

Bernard had the idea to purchase the Banker’s Building, the building that housed most of the banks in Los Angeles. Garrett rightly reasoned that when he and Joe became owners of the building, they would be able to get loans to buy real estate from their tenant banks.

However, in those days, two dark-skinned gentlemen could not acquire such a building. And then they hired a young man named Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) to serve as the face of their enterprise. Joe Morris at the same time “worked” as Matt’s driver, in control of the situation and being able to be present at some meetings.

All this was crowned with success, Garrett and Morris became rich people, and then Bernard devoted Joe to his plan: he wants to buy a bank in Texas in order to give loans to African Americans to buy real estate and develop businesses. At that time, African Americans were deprived of such an opportunity, and Garrett wants to change this situation in his home state.


This film is based on a true story, and at least in general terms, everything was exactly like that. And Garrett’s partnership with Barker, and the purchase of the Banker’s Building for a figurehead, and with Texas, this is also not an invention of the scriptwriters: Bernard and Joe really had a whole empire in Los Angeles, they were rich people and Garrett could easily not meddle in this hornet’s nest – Texas. But he really was a staunch fighter against segregation laws: in Los Angeles he tried to populate tenement houses in white areas with African Americans, and in Texas he bought two banks precisely in order to issue loans to blacks.

The production of the picture was financed by Apple, this is one of the first original Apple pictures, they had ambitious plans for this film: the company hoped that the picture could qualify for an Oscar. However, before the theatrical release, which was supposed to take place in early December last year, there was a scandal with Bernard Garrett Jr., the son of the main character of the film, who was also a co-producer of the picture. His half-sisters accused Garrett Jr. of sexual abuse against them, which took place in the seventies of the last century.

Garrett Jr.

As a result, Apple had to cancel the theatrical screening, the name of Garrett Jr. was removed from the credits, and he ceased to participate in the promotion of the picture. As far as I understand, the film was never released, but in the spring the picture appeared on the AppleTV + streaming service.

The picture was directed by George Nolfi – director and screenwriter of the mediocre science fiction film “Changing Reality”. However, here both the script (there were five scriptwriters, including Nolfi himself), and the production are very worthy.

Despite the two-hour running time, the film does not look long and looks quite cheerful. The story of how Bernard managed to persuade Mr. Barker to sell him the building is already quite interesting, and when Garrett met the dashing Joe Morris, a specific fun began there, especially when they began to train the young white guy Matt, accustoming him to the life and habits of the rich white people.

Until about the middle of the film, this whole story seems a little glossy and varnished: just that Bernard was penniless in his pocket, and then boom – together with Joe, he already bought a huge building in downtown Los Angeles.

But in the picture, everything is built in such a way that when they get involved in the story with Texas, then all this gloss stops, because they took risks there at every turn and eventually played out. (In fact, the picture begins with the scene of a government judicial investigation conducted by Arkansas Senator John McLellan, where Garrett gives evidence that could end badly for him.)

We will not discuss the details of all this now, so as not to spoil for those who have not watched the film yet, we will talk about all the details in the postscript to the review.

Anthony Mackie as Bernard Garrett – in general, quite good, but he lacks charisma. For example, Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”, “True Detective 3”, “House of Cards”), it seems to me, would have played this role much brighter.

But Samuel L Jackson portrayed Joe Morris quite atomically: a cynical person who appreciates and loves all kinds of pleasures, who has a strong tandem with Bernard and turned out only because they are two complete opposites. Jackson obviously enjoys his character a lot, and he pulls off with might and main in the picture – it’s really great.

Young Matt Steiner, played by Nicholas Hoult, does not immediately come to the fore in the film, but just in the second half he has a lot of notable episodes, and I must say that I liked Holt here: just a young Tom Cruise, who has not yet learned his standard acting tricks that in the real Tom Cruise annoy Bagel and me at times.

Holt’s task was also difficult: according to the plot, Matt is no one at all and there is no way to call him, two black gentlemen trained him to serve as a “white screen”, however, since Bernard and Joe can enter the banks they own only in the form of drivers or cleaners, Matt is under a lot of pressure, and Holt managed to show it quite well.

Another actor’s work liked Nia Long, who played Eunice, Bernard’s wife. She had few episodes, she mostly spoke with more or less typical phrases like “I believe in you”, but even with that she already attracted attention, an interesting actress.

Decorators, props specialists, artists did a great job: America of the fifties and sixties is recreated very well, it all looks solid and dignified.

I liked it, I enjoyed watching it. All details and figures from the world of the real estate market are presented in a dosed manner, and they are really important for perception, everything is done smoothly and at a good level. It’s worth watching, in my opinion. And because of Jackson – and even more so, Jackson – just fire!

PS Now let’s discuss some moments from the movie for those who have already watched it. (Of course, spoilers will follow.)

From the real history material I could find, it didn’t follow that Bernard had been dumped by Barker’s heiress. By the time of Barker’s death, Garrett was worth $1.5 million (now about $15 million), and it was after the death of his partner that he already had the money to implement a daring plan to buy the Banker’s Building in order to gain some leverage over banks.

With what happened in Texas, there are many ambiguities. They first bought the Main Land Bank & Trust Co. there. (Garrett and Morris had other partners, including Don Silverthorn, president of the National Bank of San Francisco), and then First National Bank of Marlin. The film shows that the purchase of the second bank was the idea of ​​Matt, who wanted to become the sole manager of the bank, and this led to a collapse as a result, but where I read about this story, it is written that it was Matt who protested against buying the second bank.

But Steiner really screwed up there because he did not track down the change in banking legislation in time, as a result of which Garrett and Morris, as the actual owners of the banks, found themselves before a commission of inquiry into the misuse of funds, and they were sentenced to three years in prison, having been released through nine months on parole.

It is unknown if Garrett was offered a deal. In the film, he seemed to agree to a deal so that Arkansas Senator John McLellan could push forward his amendments to banking laws, but in court he burst into a passionate speech against segregation, for which, in fact, he landed in jail.

However, here is a snapshot from the courtroom: a weeping Garrett’s lawyer reads his client’s statement at a government hearing.

However, I emphasize that at least in every interview, Bernard repeatedly emphasized that he bought banks in Texas with the main goal of giving African Americans access to bank loans.

And here is a note from the then press: “How two “cleaners” bought a white bank in Texas.”


Banker / The Banker movie meaning

Director: George Nolfi Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Nicholas Hoult, Nia Long, Taylor Black, Colm Meaney, Jesse Usher, Michael Harney, Gregory Alan Williams, James DuMont

Biopic drama, USA, 2020, 120 min.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top