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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 82.49)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • 2 Deleted scenes - with director and editor commentaries
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Robert Connolly
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • 2 Featurette - short films by Robert Connolly
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • 4 TV spot
  • Interviews
  • Storyboards
  • 5 Documentaries

The Bank

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Banks. There’s something about them that triggers the Rant Mode in people.

If you’re over 30 years old, you can probably recall a time long, long ago when your local bank begged for your business from the time you were at primary school, encouraging you to open an account in which to store your meagre savings - and that money, if you left it there, would grow at the rate of 9% a year, your reward for letting the bank borrow your money to lend it to somebody else. Those borrowers - usually at a major life moment such as buying their first house or first car - were treated fairly by the banks, their friendly and understanding local bank manager there to help if things went awry. Then, slowly but surely, it all went to hell as the multitude of banks merged into four shareholder-hugging conglomerates. The convenience of the auto teller - originally claimed as a device that would save banks money - became a convenient excuse to lower interest rates and raise fees on accounts held by ordinary people, close branches, massively cut staff, and generally shaft anyone who didn’t have a six-figure income and a holiday home at Port Douglas. Leave your money in the bank now, and it’ll cost you at least $60 a year just for the privilege of having an account that pays 0.1% interest, and that doesn’t include the myriad other fees and charges just to make use of a facility that for many is the only way to get paid their wages. Needless to say, quite a lot of people are quite a lot angry at the banks, and are very vocal about it. The banks, of course, happily ignore them, fondle their billion-dollar profits and think of new ways to convince their newly created customer underclass they’re being treated with respect.

An established independent film producer (most recently on The Boys and The Monkey’s Mask) and live theatre producer/director, Robert Connolly was finding himself rather disillusioned with the banks as well. But rather than complain to a brick wall of voice menus and scripted droids, he wrote a screenplay. Called The Bank, it would become his cinema directorial debut and later win the AFI award for Best Original Screenplay.

The story is fictional, of course, but it’s going to click with anyone who’s ever fantasised about turning the tables on their bank. Jim Doyle (Wenham) is a rather brilliant mathematician who has, with the help of Japanese colleague Toshio, developed a computer program that puts into practice a complex mathematical formula - once it’s perfected it will essentially be able to predict the rise and fall of the stock market. Enticed by the possibilities of such a money-making tool, ruthless Centabank boss Simon O’Reilly (LaPaglia) puts Jim on the payroll and gives him the staff and facilities he needs to perfect his formula. And though O’Reilly claims that the work is being done to improve the bank’s bottom line, it starts to become apparent that his plans are even more extravagant. Meanwhile, a battling couple are about to lose their property and business to the bank, which has foreclosed on an unfair loan; events lead to a tragedy that will eventually have an impact on the lives of both Jim Doyle and Simon O’Reilly.

By Connolly’s own admission a genre thriller, The Bank is a crowd-pleasing but often restrained thriller/drama that doesn’t make the mistake of taking itself too seriously. That’s not to say Connolly is flippant with his characters or his subject matter, but you get the impression he’s rather enjoying this slap in the face to big banks everywhere. Extremely well designed and directed, The Bank boasts some impressive cinematography (by Tristan Milani) that makes the most of the visual differences between the corporate world and the “real” world. Acting is generally first-rate (though curiously, Anthony LaPaglia’s American accent still sounds oddly unconvincing, even though the actor lives in the US and has appeared in many American films) and television junkies will quickly spot Secret Life Of Us star Sybilla Budd in her role as bank teller and Official Romantic Interest Michelle Roberts (her first film role, it was shot before Secret Life).

With a nice balance between humanity, technology and business nastiness maintained throughout, Connolly has crafted a kinetic, clever story with The Bank. It’s not perfect, sporting one subplot too many (the romance angle, which is too hasty to be convincing), but it’s a hugely enjoyable 100 minutes that’s best watched just after reading your bank statement.

  Video
Contract

The Bank on DVD is presented in a clean, nicely-balanced 16:9 transfer that represents the intended look of the film extremely well. With an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 it opens the matte slightly compared to the 1.85:1 theatrical version, but Connolly has taken this into account (the transfer is director-approved). Looking perhaps a tad “softer” than many recent big-studio transfers (are we getting that used to edge enhancement?) it nevertheless represents this often moodily-dark film extremely well, the muted blues and greys of the bank’s world strongly contrasting with the bright earthy colours of the outside world. The source print used is nearly pristine - clean enough for a brief bit of stock footage used early on to be easily identifiable thanks to its graininess. Black levels are perhaps just a little too high throughout, which does lessen shadow detail in extremely underlit scenes; this, however, is how the film was intended to look. The layer change appears very late in the film and is beautifully placed in a moment of blackout; most viewers won’t even notice it’s there.

  Audio
Contract

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track for The Bank is wonderfully crisp and detailed, with Sam Petty’s intricate sound design shown off to full effect. This isn’t one of those soundtracks where you impress visitors with audio flying around the room; surround effects are used subtly and unobtrusively, adding both space and atmosphere without ever attracting too much attention. Quite the opposite could be said for Alan John’s music score, which is deliciously over-the-top - complete with choirs, searing violins and menacing thriller-style piano. It enhances every scene it’s used in, and fits in with the on-screen action as though it was an unseen additional actor. It’s great stuff, and sounds vibrant and exciting on this disc. There’s more tape hiss than usual throughout (not a major problem); other than that, glitches are confined to some unwanted electronic clicks in a climactic scene and a very brief audio dropout around the 65 minute mark.

  Extras
Contract

Having given us a superb feature-laden DVD for Mullet, Madman Cinema comes to the party yet again for The Bank with a swag of extras that are, as usual, almost all genuinely informative and interesting, especially to those interested in the nuts and bolts of the filmmaking process. All extras (and menu screens) are 16:9 anamorphic unless otherwise noted.

Audio Commentary - Robert Connolly (Director/Writer): If you’re one of those people who prefers their director commentary to go into great detail about the making of the film, this is the one for you. Connolly, unpretentious and friendly, talks almost continuously throughout his movie, walking the listener through detailed technical facts about the film, as well as the characters in his script and how the actors related to them and interpreted them, offering insight into the screenwriting process along the way. Connolly’s first-ever DVD commentary, this is a fascinating and first-rate effort that’s well worth listening to.

Deleted Scenes: Introduced by film editor Nick Meyers - who goes through the process of threading the picture and sound reels on his Steinbeck editing table while he explains the reason computer editing was decided against for The Bank - the two deleted scenes here run for a total of just over two minutes and while they’re really nothing to get excited about, they do each come with two commentary tracks; one from Robert Connolly and one from Myers. Video quality is surprisingly good for deleted scenes, though of course edits are clearly visible (and audible!); audio is mono, straight off the production reels.

Original Concept: Connolly takes us through some of the movie’s storyboards; running time is a little under three minutes.

Production Design: Production Designer Luigi Pittorino, along with Connolly, takes us through the challenges faced in creating the film’s visual style and choosing suitable locations in Melbourne for a screenplay that was supposed to be shot in Sydney. Illustrated with segments from the film, this one runs a shade under six minutes.

Sound Design: Sam Petty and Connolly discuss the creation of the film’s sound-world (one inspired, Connolly says, by Stanley Kubrick), Petty also taking us through a segment from the film four times, adding sound elements each time to demonstrate how they all work together to create a seamless and involving movie experience. This way of illustrating how film audio comes together - famously done by Lucasfilm years ago on their THX demo laserdisc - is both fascinating and fun. Total running time here is just over eight minutes.

Original Music: Composer Alan John and Connolly discuss the film’s superb music score and how it was conceived and executed. Illustrated by film excerpts and very enlightening, this runs just over six minutes.

Computer Graphics: Visual effects designer Sheldon Gardner (from versatile effects and design company MCM) and Connolly talk about the computer graphics that became the on-screen representation of the fictional B.T.S.E. computer (the sound for this “machine”, by the way, was produced by Sydney electronic band B(if)tek). Illustrated with effects segments from the film, there’s five and a half minutes here.

Interview With Producer John Maynard: Exactly what the title says! Producer John Maynard talks for a couple of minutes about getting the word about The Bank out to the world, both via conventional advertising and a specially-prepared CD-ROM that was sent out to the media (wouldn’t it have been nice, by the way, to have had that content included on this disc as DVD-ROM material?)

Trailers And TV Commercials: Two theatrical trailers and four TV promos; TV spots A and D appear to have been swapped with each other, as the run times listed on the menu screen for each are wrong. All four TV spots, fairly similar to each other, are presented in 4:3 full frame with stereo audio. The theatrical trailer, meanwhile, is 16:9 anamorphic but only has mono audio. It’s interesting to compare the fairly average video transfer quality of the trailer with the same scenes in the carefully-transferred movie itself.

The Bank Book: With a short introduction by John Maynard, this section contains four screens, each of which presents three images from a book of location photography. Photos are by Max Creasy, Peter Milne, Matthew Sleeth and Danielle Thompson.

Reviews: Four pages of glowing reviews.

ABC Classics Soundtrack: Actually the 30-second TV promo (in 16:9 format, being from the ABC as it is!) for the soundtrack album, which is of course “available at ABC Shops, ABC Centres…”

AFI Awards - Best Original Screenplay: Video from the AFI broadcast covering the full nominations and Connolly’s win and acceptance in that award category. Introduced by Voice Of Countdown Gavin Wood and a defiantly laconic Ben Mendelsohn, this two and a half minute clip is annoyingly presented in a small window inside a static background screen.

IF Awards - Best Editing: Once again in a teensy window, this clip from the IF Magazine awards sees editor Nick Meyers seeming surprised at scoring the award for editing, which is coincidentally presented to him by Sybilla Budd along with her Secret Life Of Us co-star Joel Edgerton. This one’s shorter at around 90 seconds, due to both a shorter speech and a lack of Mendelsohn musings.

Cast And Crew: The usual bio screens for the four lead actors, the director and producer. Interestingly, Robert Connolly and David Wenham’s bio pages contain links to video material, but none of these links are accessible by using the directional keys on a normal DVD player remote control. They DO work, though - as long as you’re using a software DVD player on your computer, where you can select these links using your mouse. Of the three video items linked, there’s actually one here that isn’t accessible on this disc by any other means - a 4:3 letterboxed trailer for the Connolly-produced The Boys, which also starred Wenham. Some may call this an “easter egg”, but we’re going to let it pass as an “unforced error”! (If your player supports it, by the way, you can view this trailer by going direct to either title 36 or title 37 on the disc).

Short Films: Also seen in action on the Monkey’s Mask DVD, this wonderful idea of putting the director’s early short-form works on the DVD of their later feature film is absolutely terrific. Most people never get the chance to see these short films otherwise, and it’s fascinating to see the director’s talents in action without the benefit of a full-sized budget and crew. This disc generously gives us two Connolly short films to enjoy, both of them introduced by Connolly and able to be played with or without their introductions. The meditative Mr Ikegami’s Flight runs just over 13 minutes and features Bank actor Kazuhiro Muroyama in the title role; it’s presented at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio but the transfer - obviously done some time ago - is not 16:9 enhanced. Then there’s the seven-minute, full-frame Rust Bucket, which includes another Bank actor, Steve Rodgers, amongst its cast (The Boys director Rowan Woods is also there). Audio for both is stereo, with Mr Ikegami’s Flight mixed in Dolby surround.

Madman Propaganda: The customary batch of trailers from Madman, all of them in 4:3 format. This time around we get previews for Shadow Of The Vampire, Mullet, La Spagnola and Pi.

Animated Main Menu: Another beautifully designed and animated menu from the Madman Interactive team, this one featuring the B.T.S.E. computer animation from the film. This runs for about 90 seconds before looping - but there are actually two versions of this menu animation on the disc, one with the computer graphics blue-tinted and one with them red-tinted. These two separate menu runs, if left alone, alternate with each other.

Neato Stuff: Like all Madman-authored DVDs, this one includes a specially-designed “jacket picture” encoded on the disc for those of you with players that support it (Sony players do). The disc is also encoded with DVD Text.

  Overall  
Contract

A solid, very entertaining drama of intrigue, greed and good old-fashioned bank-bashing (is that loud cheering from the gallery that we’re hearing?!), The Bank is a good example of solid Australian cinema made to a world standard, a film that never once tries to be parochial (it may have been shot in Melbourne, but even Melbourne people won’t recognise most of the locations here) but does have a sense of the right balance between drama and fun. It may not be Cannes-winning material, but then, this one’s supposed to be entertainment, pure and simple.

Madman’s DVD is authored to their usual high standard and comes loaded with special features that make this a must for those who are curious about how an independent film comes together.

(Note: The Bank DVD is rental-only at the time of writing; it’s expected to be available to buy in June 2002).


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      And I quote...
    "...a hugely enjoyable 100 minutes that’s best watched just after reading your bank statement."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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