WAIT A MINUTE. This is a bank we’re talking about, isn’t it? Not so long ago, the idea that banks were good places was enshrined in phrases like ‘safe as banks’ and films like It’s A Wonderful Life, where a young banker sacrificed his own dreams in order to keep a small town alive. Then they became the guys to rob. What better place to prove the machismo of the hero than a bank? (Easy one. A casino.)
Tom Tykwer, best known as the director of Run Lola Run,handles his material with boring obviousness. The choice of Clive Owen, for instance, as an Interpol agent is almost like saying, twenty years ago, if you need a man in a ganji, it has to be Bruce Willis. Owen is the new action star and gets to play with an Assistant District Attorney in the form of Naomi Watts, also wasted. You think of her in Painted Veil and you wonder whether it’s the money or simply the lure of being able to sleepwalk through a film in which a powerful bank has to be taken down.
We are supposed to feel great horror at the notion that banks launder money and destabilise governments. We are supposed to be deeply shocked that a bank will even stoop to murder to get its ends.
Anyone hit by the current economic crisis will know that bankers are bad guys. They have been handing out your money at ridiculous rates without suitable guarantees. They have been luring people into debt with their fancy credit card schemes. They have done everything possible to bring us all to the brink of bankruptcy. And if you were to get aboard an aeroplane today and check who’s flying first class and business class, you’d find that the seats were filled with the banking boys and the financial consultants who have brought us to this pass.
On the plus side, there are nice set pieces and great outdoors in the usual roster of places: Milan, Istanbul, New York and Luxembourg. Since you have put your travel plans on hold, like most sensible people, at least you can see pretty buildings in different western cities.
And we’re supposed to worry about a bank that can influence government. We’re supposed to believe that Clive Owen and Naomi Watts are supposed to bring this down. The bankers to the film must have had an ironic chuckle as they inked their deal. Sure, let the people know we’re culpable. Sure, let them think we’re the bad boys.
Because in the end, even if they aren’t laughing all the way to the bank, the bank will have its grim little chuckle.