In his debut as feature film writer-director, Robert Connolly has done an exceptional job with this stylish, accomplished thriller about a math whiz who convinces a greedy bank CEO that he can predict stock market crashes. The Bank has already been a critical and b.o. hit in its native Australia, where it was nominated for nine Australian Film Institute awards. Though it screened at the 2001 Hamptons International Film Festival (and was favorably mentioned in FJI at the time), it has taken almost a year for a U.S. distrib to step up and make that deposit.

Connolly craftily weaves two related stories. The key plot has Jim Doyle (David Wenham), a recent PhD and math whiz, contacting and enticing the huge Centabank with news that he is closing in on an economic model--involving theories of chaos--that can predict market corrections. Centabank CEO Simon (Anthony LaPaglia), recently chewed out for relying too much on downsizing rather than growing the business, is hooked. As bullying as he is fiercely ambitious, Simon has Jim pitch him and colleagues at a fancy restaurant. After splattering the tablecloth with ink to demonstrate his chaos theories and formulas, Jim ultimately wins over the suits.

Centabank sets up their newly minted master of the universe with the most desirable of yuppie perks, including a sleek, modern apartment with a view, luxury car service, tables at the best restaurants, and the most technologically advanced tools. Jim, charged with completing his research, also begins an affair with Michelle (Sibylla Budd), a former teller who now has a glam job with the bank.

As Jim's star rises, across town the fortunes of decent ordinary folk Wayne and Diane Davis come crashing down. Their young son mysteriously drowns after a process server stuffs papers in his shirt relating to a bank seizure. The couple, having lost their business as a result of a bad currency investment sanctioned by Centabank, decide to sue the company for non-disclosure of critical facts relating to investment.

Soon after, Jim not only refines his formulas for predicting market crashes, but also appears as a witness for Centabank to discredit the Davises and abets the bank in an illegal scheme to make billions based on his market-prediction formulas. But The Bank's nifty denouement goes a long way in softening all the cynicism that has preceded it.

Connolly has coaxed terrific performances from all his players, but LaPaglia and Wenham deserve special mention for embodying their characters. Helped by a gifted crew, Connolly, who is sure to be tapped by Hollywood, also delivers magnificent visuals. The special effects conveying the computer-rendered machinations dazzle without needing to be understood. The many sterile, steely, shiny surfaces and designs of the financial world's interiors and exteriors perfectly capture the cold, hard, Darwinian environment. Alan John's Bernard Herrmann-like score aptly enhances the film's creepy tone.

--Doris Toumarkine