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A scene from "The Banker."

After sitting in escrow for four months, fledgling Apple TV+ stakes its first public offering on an in-house movie in "The Banker," an old-fashioned biopic with a thoroughly modern twist on the uphill climb of aspiring African American entrepreneurs. Although its claim of being "true" has become a subject of debate, it's hard to argue against investing in a fascinating story long buried in the abject racism it aims to dissolve.

The assets are plentiful, chiefly powerful turns by Marvel Universe cohorts Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson as disparate business partners looking to place their differences aside to shatter racist barriers in the Caucasians-only game of real estate investment in 1950s L.A. Simply put, they were out to prove that in making green it doesn't matter if you're black or white. But concessions must be made, namely a need to borrow a trick from a concurrent form of discrimination, the Hollywood Black List, by employing a naive dupe to be their front.

In the case of Mackie's native-born Texan, Bernard Garrett, and Jackson's bon vivant nightclub owner, Joe Morris, that clueless rube is laborer-turned-player Matt Steiner, brought perfectly to life by a sheen-free Nicholas Hoult ("The Favourite"). Together, the unconventional trio snookers its way into anonymously ascending to the undisputed kings of downtown L.A. real estate.

The first half of the movie - directed by George Nolfi (the Matt Damon vehicle, "The Adjustment Bureau") and co-written by a gaggle led by Nolfi - is a treat, as the characters meet and hatch their plan to unleash a clever end-around catching their white counterparts napping. Particularly enjoyable are the scenes of the two black men tutoring their utterly vanilla partner, Matt, on how to be "white." Garrett, "the brains," instructs the dupe on the intricacies of algebraic equations and how they relate to cost vs. square footage. And Morris, the gregarious funster, teaches him the combined fineries of schmoozing and golf.

Naturally, it all miraculously works; otherwise, we wouldn't have a movie. And I would have been fine with continuing on such an amusingly predictable path, watching the trio gobble up one high-rise or mansion after the other. Then, Nolfi abruptly switches gears on a trip with Garrett, his gorgeous wife, Eunice (Nia Long), and young son, Bernard Jr. (Jaylon Gordon), back to Garrett's overtly racist hometown of Willis, Texas, where the idea of buying the local bank suddenly pops into the millionaire's head. As the owner, and with Matt masquerading as the bank's president, he envisions a world of long-overdue change endeavored by doing something no one in Jim Crow Willis ever considered possible: extending home and business loans to blacks.

Morris, who like the song says, "Loves L.A.," is rightly hesitant about his partner's brainstorm, but reluctantly goes along. And once again, it's a blast watching Garrett and Morris, posing as the bank's janitor and Matt's chauffeur, respectively, in pulling the wool over the eyes of stupid, racist rednecks. At least it is for a while. Nolfi sadly can't resist the urge to insert a stock white villain and a bloviating U.S. senator in James DuMont's George McClellan (the Arkansas pol central in the depantsing of demigod Joe McCarthy) to break up the party. Yes, what ensues really happened, but the convoluted nature of the financial crimes our three heroes have committed causes the movie to get lost in the weeds. The fanciful air begins to escape, a deflation exacerbated by Nolfi's sudden rush to reach his film's unsatisfying conclusion.

Still, by then, he's built enough goodwill upon his three charming lead actors to sustain. Jackson, especially, is rapturous as the happy-go-lucky Dean Martin of this greenback Rat Pack. He's as electric as Mackie is subdued and steadfast as the film's Gary Cooper-like backbone of integrity. Sure, his Garrett breaks some banking laws along the way, but his heart is always pure in helping his people rise up against centuries of unjust oppression.

Yet, a dark (i)Cloud hovers above "The Banker" in the person of the real Eunice Garrett, claiming the film is filled with inaccuracies (a claim the producers deny). Even more nefarious, and the reason Apple abruptly pulled "The Banker" from its planned awards-season theatrical debut in December, are claims by Bernard Garrett Sr.'s daughter, Cynthia, that as a child she was molested by her older half-brother, Bernard Jr., a one-time producer on the movie. That's terrible, of course, but why should that affect the movie's release? It's a bit like Joe Biden being judged by the suspect actions of his 50-year-old son, Hunter. What does one have to do with the other?

Apple apparently agrees and has decided to go forth with "The Banker." And the timing couldn't be better, seeing how the weight of current events has pretty much pinned us to our couches in front of the TV. Captive audiences could certainly do a lot worse, like Mark Wahlberg's hideous "Spenser Confidential" over on Netflix. Whereas that turkey is an account best closed out, "The Banker," flawed as it is, generously yields interest.

Al Alexander may be reached at alexandercritica@aol.com.

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