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Bank Shots

February 19, 2009 By:
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A fiscal shoot-'em-up? On the money is Clive Owen (above and below), with Naomi Watts, going "International." Photos by Jay Maidment/Columbia Pictures
What could be more frightening than the mortgage meltdown than banks betting the house on murder and terrorism?

"The International" intrigues and instructs; who knew that opening a cache account at the local bank would bring with it an offer of Uzis instead of toasters?

"The International" bread is buttered on both sides; as a thriller and a tutorial in what happens when good money happens to bad people. Even Seinfeld would understand that "putting it in the vault" means little these days as real-life brokers like the Lehman Brothers have broken the bank and their investors' share of dreams.

"International" invests in inveighing the spirit of the cosmic conglomerate whose axis of evil spins a universal fear. Those CDs really are certificates of deception, and that washroom in the back room is really meant for money laundering after all.

Euro trash is what the bilious bank at the focus of "The International" does to innocence abroad and at home. And one can't help wondering, while watching this "French Connection" with coaxial cables all over Europe, when banking ours became their time to steal.

But some are making good returns on this concept; indeed, Richard Suckle returns to the screen as producer with hopes that this tale offers a teller's windows on the world.

Suckle may have gone "International," but his local roots are forever located in Cheltenham, where as a kid, he banked his young savings at PSFS on visits with his mom to the branch at Cheltenham Avenue and Front Street.

And, no, it wasn't a front for phony sheiks and shake-down fiscal fights. But then, bet he didn't earn as much interest at PSFS as he does now at Hollywood and Vine.

With a glittery global cast that means money in the bank, Suckle has joined frequent collaborator and Hollywood hot shot Charles Roven in riveting audiences to the screen.

And who knew back at Cheltenham High, that his career highlights at age 40 would include a movie insured by FDIC -- Film Detailing International Conspiracies?

"I'm not so sure the [real] FDIC would insure this," he says with a laugh about a film that seems made for the Madoffs of the new millennium -- if Bernard Madoff were allowed out of the house to visit his local theater.

"It's unbelievable," avows Suckle of the heady heights of a hit film co-existing extraordinarily with the headlines of today's gestalt of greed -- an unstable grab-bag of gimme that would make even Gordon Gekko look for insurance at GEICO.

"It's such a coincidence," says the producer of the coincidences of timing. "After all, we've been developing this script for six to seven years."

Back then, the country was still afloat with mad money, not maddening minions devaluing 401(k)s to crapshoots.

Popcorn and Ponzi? Bank shots of pooled moral perversity? "These issues didn't just pop up," says the producer of a flatline economical crisis created by fiat of cheats and charlatans.

Future Shock

Suckle's seen it all -- but not this, an environment where overdraft has been redefined as the sound of money being sucked from investors' pockets.

"If I had been clairvoyant," he says of foreseeing the decline and fall of Wall Street, home of weakened warriors, "I'd be in a different kind of business."

Not that he felt destined and hell-bent for Hollywood as a kid. "I was never movie [career] conscious at Cheltenham High," he recalls, "but I was always a fan."

What fanned the flames was the film fun he had attending the Baederwood in Jenkintown or the Orleans in the Northeast, when he suddenly started taking note of the credits at movies' end.

It wasn't until he was earning credits at the University of Chicago that he thought of a career in a different frame of reference.

"It wasn't until my sophomore year, and I started reading articles about the business ... and then a good buddy of mine and I agreed we would go out to L.A."

But before then it was Broadway or bust as Suckle segued to New York, transferring to New York University, earning his degree and working for the management company of Gatchell & Neufeld, attending to accounts like Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Aspects of Love" and to "City of Angels."

Ah, the City of Angels again, where his aspect of love for entertainment was to blossom.

"I still had it in my head even when in New York to go out to L.A," he says.

Which he did, leaving Cheltenham behind -- and his mother's wishes.

"Let's just say she was very nonsupportive at first," says her son the producer with the aplomb of an editor, and the affection and admiration for what she added to his life. "What she wanted for me was to go to law school, stay in Philadelphia."

Far and away, being far and away was a Jewish geography off the map for Mom. "I always had faith in Richard, and he would have made a great lawyer," says his mother, Jackie Schloss.

Verdict? "When she saw how serious I was about it, she warmed up to" his going Hollywood -- geographically, not attitudinally.

It's certainly warmer in Los Angeles, where the hot producer started to really ... produce.

As for Mom? "I am elated! I'm just sad he lives so far away."

But filial love travels well -- and so does mom, jetting off to visit Richard and his wife and two kids. Just drop her bags for check-in at the international desk, she kibitzes of flying off to Berlin to see him during "The International" shoot.

And, of course, there are times when he packs his producer's bags for parts not exactly unknown. There was the time he returned here as top banana -- as part of Atlas Entertainment's production of "Twelve Monkeys" (1995), which shot on his home turf.

From "Monkeys" to detective dogs: "I grew up on [cartoon character] Scooby-Doo," and he done good -- Suckle and Roven produced the movie "Scooby-Doo," which did do great box office.

Now that Suckle's gone international -- "The International" was shot worldwide, versing the movie's accountants in the new math of the "continental divide" -- Suckle and Roven are turning their eyes from the West Side story set in part at the Guggenheim Museum -- a replica was built for "The International" to host a shoot-out artful in its own way -- to the West Bank saga of "Damascus Gate," based on the 1998 best-seller. (Israel, too, is a base of story line for "The International.")

Is Suckle especially interested in the film's focus -- about a terrorist plot to derail an Israeli-Arab agreement -- because he himself is Jewish? Is it all a piece of heritage and Hollywood?

"I love having something to say beyond entertainment -- which is the most important focus a film can have, entertainment -- but if it can also be provocative, even better."

But given his prescient picture-making prowess, should movie-goers and political wonks wonder or worry what will be happening in Jerusalem at the time the movie comes out? A bad case of Sinai trouble?

Inside word from "The International" producer: "Nothing to worry about," he says, laughing. "Instead, just let's have some high hopes that we'll have peace accords."

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