US / 92 minutes / color / Westwind Dir & Pr: William Webb Scr: Dana Augustine Story: William Webb, Richard Brandes, Dana Augustine Cine: John Huneck Cast: Robert Forster, Duncan Regehr, Shanna Reed, Jeff Conaway, Leif Garrett, Richard Roundtree, Juan García, Michael Fairman, Deborah Richter, Teri Weigel, Dan Leegant, E.J. Peaker, Leigh Wood, Richard Harding Gardner.
Osbourne (Duncan Regehr) displays his own variety of après sex.
Powerful, near-infinitely rich international financier Spaulding Osbourne (Regehr), his head filled with craziness about blood gods after having immersed himself in South American culture and indeed for some years in the South American jungle, has a new hobby: hiring expensive callgirls, having sex with them, shooting them with his laser-guided crossbow, and then slicing them up. He’s fed the girls by the pimp Fowler (Garrett), abetted by the pimp and deviant Francis “Cowboy” Moldehill (Conaway).
Jeff Conaway is effective as the despicable pimp Cowboy.
After the first murder—of amply enhanced hooker Jayne Marie Knott (Weigel)—maverickish cop Sgt. Daniel “Dan” Jefferson (Forster) of the sheriff’s department is put on the case, along with his new partner, Deputy Eduardo “Eddie” García (García). Also on the case, in a rather different sense, is Dan’s telejournalist ex-wife Sharon Maxwell (Reed), currently stuck covering sandcastle contests and the “lighter touch” material for Channel 3’s Eye on Us show but, after an on-air rant about the stupidity of focusing on such drek when there’s a homicidal maniac stalking the streets, soon promoted by producer Fred (Fairman) to anchor the main news show.
The enigmatic sigil the killer leaves behind.
After Osbourne has killed part-time callgirl and wannabe actress Melanie Van Dorn (Richter), Dan starts making some real progress, first pulling in Cowboy and then using him as a means to get to Fowler; neither pimp is disposed to be helpful, but Dan’s sure he’s rattling the killer. Meanwhile, on-air, Sharon’s stepping up her own campaign to the point where Dan has to ask her to cool things down for fear of goading the killer into even greater atrocities. Predictably, they’re beginning to thaw toward each other.
Osbourne has hi-tech means of watching Melanie (Deborah Richter) plead for her life.
. . . but Melanie stole a $1000 bill that Osbourne was using as a bookmark, and stuck it in her cleavage. Thanks to his shooting her in the heart with his crossbow, a fragment of the face of Grover Cleveland is found in her ventricle. Yep, it’s the big break the cops were hoping for . . .
Cowboy has been getting ideas. When Fowler fixes up Osbourne with a third girl, Stephanie Jameson (Wood), Cowboy follows the pair to a motel and just fails to catch Osbourne in the act of murder. He does succeed in getting the man’s license plate number, though, and the next we know he’s trying to put the blackmail screws on the financier . . . an ill advised course, as must surely be obvious, even to someone so obnoxiously stupid as Cowboy is, were it not for the fact that he’s in a movie, not real life.
Nauseated by her phone call with the killer, Sharon (Shanna Reed) communes with the sea.
The Banker quite clearly doesn’t set out to conquer new territory. The growing rapprochement between Dan and Sharon is only one of the many predictable plot-points; you hardly need to look up from your popcorn to know that the killer is going to develop a fixation on Sharon, pepper her with red roses, and eventually lure her into his clutches. Dan charges to the rescue—check. Eddie gets a crossbow bolt in the chest but pluckily survives to divulge vital information, complete with the “And stop calling me ‘Kid’, the name’s Eddie” line—check. Someone falls in through a skylight window—check. We get some pseudo-spiritual baloney from the killer (“I do not belong to the small world of power and money. My domain exists beyond all of this—beyond all that you think of as life”)—check. Dan knows, just knows, that it’s not merely any ol’ serial-killer case they’re getting into but something a bit, well, special (“This isn’t just a murder, Kid. It’s a work of art”)—check. And so on. Really the only thing that’s missing from the list is a car chase; maybe the budget wouldn’t run to the gas.
A grim message for Dan.
There’s a refreshing lack of gratuitous gore, perhaps because financial limitations restricted the use of makeup effects; in fact, the only person we actually see getting struck by one of Osbourne’s crossbow bolts is Eddie, and even then it seems to have come from the wrong direction. When Melanie is seeking a means of escape from Osbourne’s home, it never occurs to her to take her shoes off so that he might be less likely to hear her clip-clopping across the wooden floors. I caught sight of a microphone boom, and there may have been other bloopers that slipped by me. In short, this movie has direct-to-video written all over it. (It seems to have been released DTV in most territories but to have had a theatrical release in Japan.)
Sharon’s new office comes complete with dangling microphone.
And yet, and yet, despite the low aspirations and the devastating lack of originality, The Banker functions quite effectively as a sort of homage to other movies of its type. Regehr, as the Brit-accented serial killer, is no Anthony Hopkins, but he does do a passable Jeremy Irons, albeit a Jeremy Irons trapped in a musclebuilder’s body. Forster captures a hint of Peter Falk, but you tend not to notice it because he’s mastered so effectively the Paul Michael Glaser/Starsky affect, complete with trademark swagger. There are also some neat moments in the dialogue, as when Dan talks about bankers to his boss, Lt. Lloyd Hughes (Roundtree): “They’re all bloodsuckers, Lloyd. This one happens to be the real thing.”
The real thing? Duncan Regehr as Osbourne.
This was among the last movies that ex-Playboy and Penthouse model Weigel made before the accident whose financial consequences encouraged her to move into hardcore porn.
So much for Osbourne: Sharon don’t need his red roses no more.
On Amazon.com: The Banker (1989) [VHS]