Bank$tas (for Dork Shelf)

My feelings toward Bank$tas wavered back and forth quite a bit as I watched it. Overall, I was impressed by the performances of its stars — aside from Alan Thicke, who really seemed to be hamming it up as corrupt investment banker Peter Hoss. Let’s say his performance was more Meisner and focused on external details, while everyone else was more Method and internal (though that’s already getting far too deep for this shallow comedy). But then, as a feminist, I got more and more uncomfortable with the structure of the whole thing.

Let’s put aside for a moment how strange it is whenever Canadian filmmakers make a film set in the U.S., with American characters, about a topic that is intricately American, and try to pretend that they definitely know what they’re doing. Let’s just put a pin in that. What made me most uncomfortable was the feeling that this whole film was some sort of wet dream come to life.

The two main protagonists are fresh out of university at the beginning of the film (meaning, they’re each about twenty-two years old). The story starts with Isaac (Joe Dinicol) pulling a bizarre prank to get him and his best friend Neal (Michael Seater) jobs at Hoss’ big-time investment firm (unpaid, of course). But then Neal overhears Hoss making a corrupt deal in the bathroom (immediately after his interview, no less), and there’s a good twenty minutes or so devoted to Neal and Isaac’s secret investigation into what’s going on. That’s actually all well and good — until they start breaking laws left and right, trying to gather (inadmissible) evidence to blackmail Hoss into undoing his bad deal, feeling as if they can’t go to the SEC because Isaac’s dad is the main (not-so-)innocent investor in the scheme.

But then we also get into young heterosexual male sex fantasy territory. After they sneak into the office to gather intel, Isaac is “forced” to distract Hoss’ hot assistant, Diane, by letting her have her kinky way with him in the copy room (She is an MBA student nearing graduation and on serious track to become partner. And apparently she’s willing to risk all that to get down with the 22-year-old unpaid intern who can rap about finance.) Meanwhile, Neal finds Hoss’ sexual-harassment-lawsuit-waiting-to-happen son having sex with his dad’s escort (ew) and records it on his phone for leverage. But that’s not all! After Isaac asks Diane to distract Hoss Junior (by teasing him with the idea of sex, since there’s no other way someone as smart as her could help them), Neal eventually gets his super-hot gal, too — he ends up with the firm’s in-house counsel, their “most photogenic lawyer,” as Hoss Junior points out, who just loves his sincerity. Because of him, she has the strength to chuck it all and pursue the career she really wants, as a photographer! Highly implausible, Your Honor. Not only are these strong, successful (and beautiful) women unlikely to be attracted to such immature young men, but it’s offensive that their only role in the story is to be the reward for said young men’s “good” behavior (which, again, wasn’t so good in the first place).

In the end, I decided that this film was a hot mess in terms of story and offensive to independent women everywhere, but the actors did their best with what they were given. Except for one (I’m looking at you, Alan Thicke).

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