(US - 1989)
Directed by William Webb. Written by Dana Augustine. Cast: Robert Forster, Duncan Regehr, Shanna Reed, Jeff Conaway, Leif Garrett, Richard Roundtree, Juan Garcia, Michael Fairman, Deborah Richter, E.J. Peaker, Marty Dudek, Leigh Wood, Dan Leegant, Julie Hayek, Teri Weigel. (R, 96 mins)
I must've looked at the Virgin Vision VHS box for 1989's THE BANKER a thousand times at the video store back in the day and never pulled the trigger. It's just been released on Blu-ray by Dark Force (because physical media is dead), and the package is dedicated to the film's star, beloved cult actor Robert Forster, who died in 2019. Forster is pretty much the only reason to watch THE BANKER, a rather rote and by-the-numbers slasher/cop thriller that went straight-to-video in December 1989. It's nothing special, but it's nevertheless attained some modicum of cult cache because Quentin Tarantino is allegedly a huge fan of it and is said to have talked it up to a lot of customers during his days working at Video Archives. We know JACKIE BROWN director Tarantino is a huge Forster fan, and to that end, any love one may have for THE BANKER is contingent on your love for Forster. If you're a Forster superfan, then THE BANKER is absolutely required viewing because he's pretty great in it, but then, he was great in everything. I've seen Robert Forster in a lot of bad movies that he only made to pay the bills, but I have yet to see a bad Robert Forster performance.
|Robert Forster (1941-2019)
Frank McRae-esque ass-chewing capped off with a "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't have you on animal detail!" Roundtree played pretty much the exact same role in 1988's PARTY LINE, and both films were directed William Webb. PARTY LINE was also some vintage bit of B-grade L.A. sleaze, and it wasn't that much better than THE BANKER, but it did have an over-the-top performance by '70s teen idol Leif Garrett as a cross-dressing, throat-slashing killer offing horny johns along with his even crazier sister as part of an obscure revenge against their abusive father. Garrett punches a clock once more for Webb on THE BANKER, as Fowler, one of the two sleazebag pimps--along with TAXI's Jeff Conaway as "Cowboy"--inadvertently supplying victims for Osbourne. Shanna Reed, just before a several-season run on the CBS sitcom MAJOR DAD, plays Jefferson's ex-wife, a disgruntled TV news reporter stuck doing mindless puff pieces until she improbably gets bumped to star anchor after turns her news reports into a talk radio-style soapbox to goad and shit-talk the serial killer, only succeeding in attracting Osbourne's attention to the point where he buys the TV station (!). Would it surprise you at all to find out that Osbourne intends to make her his next victim? Forster gets some funny lines, and considering how uninspired the rest of Dana Augustine's script is, I'm willing to bet the actor wrote or ad-libbed a lot of his own dialogue (he arrests Cowboy and another cop asks "What's the charge?" as Forster's Jefferson barks "Contempt of cop!"), and his final quip at the end is right up there with James Woods at the close of 1988's COP. THE BANKER dutifully follows the formula and makes sure to all the DTV marks of its day that would become genre standard well into the '90s: a smartass cop, a crazed killer, some chase scenes, some bloody murders, gratuitous nudity, and a few sex scenes scored by some smooth jazz and wailing sax. It's nothing special, but Robert Forster certainly was. He was a goddamn national treasure whose very presence elevated even the most routine paycheck gigs. Every movie Forster made was better because of him, and THE BANKER is a perfect example.