Bank of Dave review – underdog story of an everyman v Eton poshos

Here is the latest film to roll off the production line of cheerful warming British underdog comedies. As originally showcased in a 2012 Channel 4 series, it is the true story of how self-made Burnley businessman Dave Fishwick took on London’s elite banking institutions to get a licence to open his own bank serving the local community. More accurately, this film is a heavily fictionalised version of that story, slickly packaged into a familiar formula by the team behind Fisherman’s Friends.

Rory Kinnear is brilliant as Fishwick, who made his fortune selling vans and minibuses but has never forgotten his roots. Kinnear gives the character a winning mix of down-to-earth blokiness with a rags-to-riches flamboyance (and a bit of ego to match the flash car). The film opens in the wake of the 2008 financial crash: Fishwick’s customers are struggling to borrow from the high street, so he’s started lending them money. But to operate as a bank he needs a licence, and the Eton poshos regulating the banking sector decide he’s not the right sort of chap.

The rest of the characters feel as if they might have been generated by an algorithm. There’s a corporate lawyer from London, hired by Dave to deal with regulators; this is awkward well-meaning Hugh (Joel Fry), who soon falls for the charms of Burnley as well as Fishwick’s niece, an A&E doctor played by Bridgerton’s Phoebe Dynevor. Hugh Bonneville gives good sneer as a fatcat banker.

It’s a film with a decent bit of charm, and it’s hard to argue with the greed-is-bad message. (The end credits tell us that the Bank of Dave has lent 30 million quid; all profits go to local charities.) There are some funny moments too, particularly in a courtroom drama sequence set in Burnley magistrates court, when Hugh goes “full Perry Mason”. But an artificial taste ruins a fair few scenes – and had me straight on Google afterwards. Did the real-life Fishwick really give a rousing speech on stage with Def Leppard at Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium? No, he did not.

• Bank of Dave is released on 16 January on Netflix.