Chris Foggin’s film Bank of Dave is a showcase for the great theatre actor Rory Kinnear who proves he can also play a Tom Hanks-esque leading man.
Bank of Dave is now on VOD in Canada and the US. It is also playing theatrically in select cinemas. The film Bank of Dave is also available to stream on Netflix in the UK.
Keep up with the best socially progressive hidden gems of international cinema with The Seventh Row Newsletter. The newsletter features exclusive content and recommendations you won’t find on the website.
I can’t believe it’s taken this long for someone to cast Rory Kinnear in a Tom Hanks pillar-of-the-community role in which he also gets to sing! Fortunately, Chris Foggin has finally filled this gap with Bank of Dave. It’s a feel-good working-class comedy only the British would make. Think Made in Dagenham, Pride, and even more appropriately, Fisherman’s Friends, Foggins’ previous based-on-a-true-story outing with a few tunes, a wonderful small-town community, and pretty much all the same story beats as Bank of Dave.
The director of Fisherman’s Friends tells another inspiring based-on-a-true story of working-class Britain
Bank of Dave trades crooning fishermen for van salesman Dave (Rory Kinnear). Dave just wants to loan money to locals that the regular banks wouldn’t touch. He sees it as a way to create jobs and improve the quality of life in the community. He’s been making personal loans for years. Now that more ambitious projects are finding their way to his desk, he needs to become a bank. The catch: Britain hasn’t approved a new bank in 150 years. Dave is a self-made man. He’s not posh and didn’t go to Oxbridge. But he must go toe-to-toe with the old money networks that run banking who look down on him. The banks play dirty.
Dave enlists a London lawyer, Hugh (Joel Fry), to help guide him through the Kafka-esque paperwork. After many visits up north to Dave’s town, Burnley, for work, Hugh becomes personally invested in the project and Burnley. He soon meets Dave’s niece (Phoebe Dynevor), an ER doctor trying to open a free walk-in clinic, and sparks fly. If you’ve ever seen one of these movies, you can fill in all the plot points from here.
Rory Kinnear elevates a predictable plot
The great Rory Kinnear, one of the best actors working right now, distinguishes Bank of Dave from the riff-raff. He is a national treasure on stage, but his screen roles have never quite matched his talent. His Hamlet and Iago are the best performances of those parts in the 21st century on stage. He can even sing, as he proved in The Threepenny Opera, and now in Bank of Dave.
Most directors don’t know how to capture the magnetism Kinnear brings on stage to the screen. He’s a relatively normal-looking guy, but you can’t take your eyes off him on stage. You have to show more than just Rory Kinnear’s face in closeup to get the full impact. It’s why Kinnear is so fantastic in Mike Leigh’s Peterloo. We see his whole body in long takes. Kinnear often gets called in as the heavy hitter when you need a villain or a great orator (Peterloo and Ridley Road, included). But leading parts on screen tend to have eluded him aside from Alex Garland’s Men.
Rory Kinnear makes the perfect Tom Hanks/Jimmy Stewart type in the film Bank of Dave
Yet Kinnear’s average looks and can’t-stop-looking-at-this-guy charisma make him a perfect British Tom Hanks or Jimmy Stewart. Foggin gets that. His unshowy direction, which does little aesthetically aside from letting us watch the actors, proves the perfect fit. In Bank of Dave, Kinnear sings karaoke, gives rousing speeches, charms everyone around him, goes up against the rich and powerful just to see if he can, and still comes off as a kind, vulnerable, loving, regular guy. Kinnear even perfects the Burnley accent so well that, try as she might, Dynevor doesn’t sound local because she can’t match his.
The big surprise of Bank of Dave comes from Joel Fry’s lead performance as the timid, downtrodden Hugh, who finds himself while working on the case. Fry’s hesitations and false starts are enough to make you believe he’s uncomfortable in his skin. But Fry ensures you always believe Hugh could hold his own among London lawyers. Hugh’s character arc is predictable, but it’s a pleasure to watch Fry carry it out. As the Young Buck who introduces us to the world, it’s nice to see that part go to a person of colour and a longtime jobbing actor. It usually goes to posh white boys.
I could pick nits about the film. There’s an irony to a film about helping the local community because Big Money won’t by opening a bank — because somehow capitalism fixes all ills when it’s in the right hands. The film is careful not to comment on why we should assume Dave is so salt-of-the-earth that he won’t become just as power-hungry as the rest of the bankers if given the opportunity. Nor does it suggest that better government programs or social services might solve many problems. You could call that realistic or neoliberal, and both would probably be true. Although based on a true story, the film is embellished greatly to make the story more awe-inspiring and cinema-ready. I don’t mind it from an entertainment perspective, but it does undercut the film’s underdog story.
Ultimately, though, Bank of Dave is ninety minutes of Rory Kinnear doing what Rory Kinnear does best. And there’s even a parade of many of my favourite middle-aged posh character actors as the villains, which I’ll leave you to discover. I laughed. My heart was warmed. I’m glad Rory Kinnear is doing good, meaty work, even if it’s with a script that doesn’t quite deserve him. And I can’t wait to see what Joel Fry does next: he’s got “it.”
You may also like our podcast on British working-class revolution films (Pride, Made in Dagenham, Sufferagette)