The Banker's troubled road to theaters ends today | Cult of Mac

The Banker‘s troubled road to theaters ends today

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The Banker is the first original movie from Apple TV+.
The Banker was originally scheduled to debut last year.
Photo: Apple

Apple-owned movie The Banker is due to land on Apple TV+ later this month. But if you want to catch it on the big screen, you can do so starting today.

The movie, which is based on a true story, stars Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson as Bernard Garrett and Joe Morris, two of the first African-American bankers in the United States. To combat systematic racism during the Jim Crow era, they hire a white man (Nicholas Hoult) as the face of their business while posing as a chauffeur and janitor.

The Banker is directed by George Nolfi, who is perhaps best known for directing 2011’s The Adjustment Bureau. The movie also stars Nia Long, Colm Meaney and Jessie Usher.

The Banker‘s journey to the screen

Unlike Apple Originals such as Servant and The Morning Show, Apple did not develop The Banker as its own property. The movie was announced in October 2018 with Romulus Entertainment, Iam21 Entertainment, Mad Hatter, and Hyphenate Films as the four production companies contributing to its low $11 million budget. Apple acquired the rights to the movie in July 2019 after it was completed.

Since then, The Banker has had a slightly tumultuous journey to theaters. It was originally scheduled to hit theaters last December. A premiere was scheduled for AFI Fest in Los Angeles in November, but did not go ahead.

Instead, Apple delayed the release back due to allegations of abuse against Bernard Garrett Jr., the son of Bernard Garrett and a co-producer on the movie. Garrett has denied the allegations, made by his half-sisters, that he sexually molested them years earlier. Apple said that it wanted to investigate the allegations.

In a January statement to Cult of Mac, Apple said that:

“We wanted to take the time to understand the situation at hand — and after reviewing the information available to us, including documentation of the filmmakers’ research, we’ve decided to make this important and enlightening film available to viewers.”

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes Apple (or someone else involved in the production) petitioned to have the movie rating changed. According to the movie industry tracking website The Numbers, the MPAA originally gave it an R rating. The filmmakers appealed and got it re-rated PG-13. This is on account of strong language including a sexual reference and racial epithets, and smoking throughout.

An award winner for Apple?

I was unable to find out how movie theaters The Banker is playing at or what it is projected to earn in this opening weekend. It is currently scheduled to debut on Apple TV+ for March 20. Due to its low budget, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Apple to earn back the money it spent buying the movie.

However, the bigger reason to give it a theatrical release is to make it eligible for awards. Apple has reportedly made winning awards a big part of its Apple TV+ strategy. The Banker, with its prestigious cast and true story, certainly sounds like the kind of movie which could win awards.

Initial reviews of the movie have been somewhat mixed. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called it “a crackling good, emotionally satisfying, old-fashioned thriller, with readily identifiable heroes and hiss-worthy villains.” But Owen Gleiberman of Variety said that it “lacks fire.” The current Rotten Tomatoes score is 67% from 18 critical reviews. There is no audience score yet.