Bank of Dave (2023) *** / No Stars

Take One: A quite superlative courtroom scene sets the tone for this David vs. Goliath clash of a Burnley minibus dealer taking on the might of the British Establishment. In truth, my heart had sunk at the stereotypical opening – posh London lawyer sent “oop north,” his first encounter with natives unintelligible, his client first seen in a pub doing karaoke. And set against the background of the financial crash caused by arrogant and inept big banks, the stall is set out too obviously.

But, gradually, it acquires a different tone, of two outsiders fighting the system, less-than-high-flying corporate attorney Hugh (Joel Fry) trying to gain acceptance in a working-class town, working-class millionaire Dave (Rory Kinnear) battling to gain a foothold in banking circles to put forward his controversial notion of a new bank – the first in 150 years – that dealt only with small businesses.

There’s a toe-curlingly awful romance as Hugh can’t quite put into words his feelings for Dave’s niece Alexandra (Phoebe Dynevor), a Cambridge-educated NHS doctor, and she can’t quite help him along. Banking guru Sir Charles (Hugh Bonneville) has Dave in court on a trumped-up charge. Anyone Hugh trusts in the City does the dirty on him while locals he distrusts are confusingly helpful.

The Banking Powers-That-Be make up the rules as they go along, leaving Hugh with a £12 million shortfall to fill before he can get up and running.

So there’s a lot of ducking-and-diving on both sides, born publicist Dave constantly coming up with entrepreneurial wheezes, the opposition attempting to thwart him at every turn. Business pictures are a hard sell unless the product is drugs or sex, so it’s no surprise this isn’t about setting up a business, even one with righteous credentials (i.e. helping the little guy), but rather about poking a finger in the eye of Big Business, Big Banking, Big Government and anything else that isn’t Little (i.e. good).

Along the way it turns into a warm-hearted feel-good movie with characters you might recognize and situations you might appreciate and although the ending is a tad predictable I was surprised how moved I was. Rory Kinnear (Men, 2022), rarely given anything more than a supporting role, shines as the larger-than-life Dave and Joel Fry (Jasper, if you remember, from Cruella, 2021) goes from romantically inept to courtroom genius and back again while Bridgerton graduate Phoebe Dynevor has a slow-burner of a role. Debut feature of Chris Foggin from a screenplay by Piers Ashworth (Fisherman’s Friends, 2019).

At the high end of streaming material in that it was an enjoyable watch and no complaints about a big film which should have been seen in the cinema.

Take Two: But then I wanted to learn more about Dave and his banking initiative. And lo and behold very little of what you see on the screen is true. The big court case is a figment of the writer’s imagination, which means that however low Big Banking stooped it didn’t stoop this low. And so, it transpired, was the need to raise £12 million. And so was the fundraising concert by Def Leppard and so, too, I guess was the odd million thrown into the kitty at the last minute by Hugh to get Dave over the line.

So, much of Bohemian Rhapsody wasn’t true either and I was always in awe of the bar scene in A Beautiful Mind (2001) in which asking girls to dance is used to demonstrate the Zero Sum theory on which mathematician John Nash made his name, rather than some more complicated explanation. And it’s true, Dave was taking on the Establishment and nobody had set up a bank in 150 years and the financial industry was in crisis and you could ask who were these people to judge who was fit to run a bank when these were the same banking bosses who had squandered gazillions on ill-advised loans. And I’m sure it was a hell of battle. That he didn’t, in fact, win, because the bank Dave did set up is not a bank in the financial meaning of the word.

And, of course, it highlighted the inequities in a system that can reward with bonuses bankers who made a whopping loss.

So I’m really in two minds. I enjoyed it at the time but that enjoyment quickly palled when I realized it was all invention. I just wondered if there was a better and more incisive way to skewer the Big Banks than this.

On Netflix.

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

2 thoughts on “Bank of Dave (2023) *** / No Stars”

  1. Wasn’t enthused enough to watch this. Like Kinnear and Fry, but a billion dollar streamer making a film about home-grown banking services always seemed likely to send a mixed message…can’t believe of all the films in streaming, this is the one you went for…

    Liked by 1 person

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