The story of Brian Banks is especially pertinent in the #MeToo era. A high school football player in Long Beach, California, Banks was falsely accused of rape by a classmate. He was railroaded into a plea deal by the district attorney, then stunned by a lengthy jail sentence for a crime he did not commit. A promising athlete’s life was destroyed by flimsy he said, she said evidence. The film Brian Banks recounts the incident, his time in prison, and the extraordinary lengths he went to clear his name. It is a harrowing, insightful look into an appalling miscarriage of justice.
Brian Banks, played superbly by Aldis Hodge, was on the fast track to athletic stardom. A star football player at his Long Beach high school, he had a scholarship to the University of Southern California promised after graduation. One fateful afternoon, Banks clandestinely met with a girl (Xosha Roquemore) for a stairwell makeout session. They were caught by a security guard. When his crush went back to class, she claimed that Banks had raped her.
Years later, Banks works as a gym trainer. He tries to pick up the pieces of his life under the guidance of a loving mother (Sherri Shepherd). But he is stunted by the baggage of being a registered sex offender and felon rapist. The burden of his past shackled his future. Brian Banks begins an arduous campaign for the services of lawyer Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear), a rights advocate for the California Innocence Project. Brooks initially shuns Brian Banks, but finally is shown the details of his case. He realizes that Banks was a victim of an overzealous prosecutor, who did not properly investigate the accuser’s claim. Justin Brooks and Brian Banks embark on a risky plan to get her confession. Complicated by the millions she won by suing the school district.
Brian Banks will gnaw at your gut. His treatment by the criminal justice system was an absolute disgrace. A teen, who had excelled against all odds, had his life torn away by lies and malfeasance. The scenes of Banks in prison are soul crushing. Aldis Hodge portrays a man sunken into the deepest despair, fighting to keep hope alive against all odds. His journey from prison to redemption is equally uplifting. Banks was able to take back his good name, but at a cost that no one should have to pay.
The disgusting and deceitful behavior of his accuser is shown without remorse. Xosha Roquemore plays her with a flippant attitude. She won millions on a lie and wasn’t about to endanger her settlement. Your blood will boil by her actions. A man’s life was destroyed, but she felt no compunction to right her wrong. Brian Banks shows the dark side of false accusation. We live in a time when women have forcefully owned the discourse against sexual violence, and rightfully so. #MeToo and the light it has shone especially on campus rape is long overdue for victims. But society has to respect the rights of the accused. Innocent until proven guilty is dictated by law. Brian Banks was unfortunately a poor black teen, without resources to defend his case properly. How many people have suffered his fate, and are still rotting in prison?
Brian Banks reminds us that the pendulum of truth and justice must swing both ways. A false rape accusation devastated his life. He should have had the opportunity to properly defend himself. Sexual crimes are difficult on every front to address. The utmost diligence must be taken to properly investigate them. Brian Banks is produced by Shivhans Pictures and Gidden Media with distribution by Bleecker Street. It will be released theatrically on August 9th.
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