'The Bank' has the chops, not the sizzle

Times Staff Writer

Australia's "The Bank" is a caustic attack on corporate greed in the form of a suspense thriller. Writer-director Robert Connolly has done a dazzling job of working out an intricate plot that involves a formidable knowledge of the possibilities of computer technology and the workings of modern banking, and has balanced it with a firm grasp of character.

However, from such a solid foundation Connolly might well have constructed a brisker, more exciting picture with more vivid and involving characters. As it is, the film takes too long to become truly compelling. It could have benefited from a shot of good old Hollywood pizazz.

"The Bank" is admirable for daring to operate on a high intellectual level without requiring that the viewer be an expert in computers or banking. A young genius-level math and computer whiz, Jim Doyle (David Wenham), proposes to Simon O'Reilly (Anthony LaPaglia), the hard-pressed chief executive of a banking empire, that Simon's Melbourne-based Centabank provide him with the computer modeling technology Jim needs to realize his program for predicting stock market crashes. Utterly ruthless but also daring, Simon is smart enough to comprehend that Jim is on to something. He agrees to back him to the tune of $10 million Australian.

As the experiment proceeds, it becomes clear that Simon is a man who would use such a predicting device for unethical insider trading rather than limiting it to helping Centabank weather an economic downturn. But Jim, for all his liberal sentiments, remains an enigma. He finds he cannot help but suspect ulterior motives on the part of the elegant and ambitious Centabank junior executive (Sibylla Budd) who has become his lover.

Connolly has all these elements, plus a revealing, ironic and socially conscious subplot, going for him. But the sleek, well-oiled, well-acted "The Bank," while as meaty as a steak, is short on sizzle.


'The Bank'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Some sensuality, complex adult themes; some sequences too intense for children.

David Wenham...Jim Doyle

Anthony LaPaglia...Simon O'Reilly

Sibylla Budd...Michelle Roberts

A Cinema Guild release of an Australian Film Finance Corp. presentation of an Arenafilm production in association with Showtime Australia, Axiom Films and Fandango, with the support of Film Fandango. Writer-director Robert Connolly; from an idea by Brian Price, Mike Betar. Producer John Maynard. Cinematographer Tristan Milani. Editor Nicholas Meyers. Visual effects Sheldon Gardner, MCM Interactive. Music Alan John. Costumes Annie Marshall. Production designer Luigi Pittorino. Art director Julian John. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.

Exclusively at the Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-6379, through Thursday.

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