Equity (2016) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for language throughout
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner, Samuel Roukin, Craig Bierko, Nate Corddry
Director: Meera Menon
Screenplay: Amy Fox
Review published September 6, 2016
Equity is a movie about women playing in a business medium generally dominated by men, made by female filmmakers who are playing in an entertainment-based business medium generally dominated by men. The subject matter looks into the ruthless world of Wall Street, this one showcasing the trials and tribulations of a few women in the corporate ranks and how their lives are affected by the play for money and power within the high-stakes business world, where women are expected to produce, but too aggressive, and their clients and colleagues tend to see their actions in a much more negative light for doing that which a male counterpart would be praised for. There's also an underlying 'quid pro quo' to the interaction of many women in the business world, where discussions often lead to a bit of flirtatiousness, sweet-talking, and sexuality to get the attention and favorable standing.
Anna Gunn (Enemy of the State, "Breaking Bad") is the star, playing Naomi Bishop, a self-made, shrewd and successful investment banker who has made great gains in launching highly successful IPOs, though her most recent less-than-stellar effort, in which she was pulled from representing just before launch, had been seen in the media as a black mark on her career. Her latest client is a potential billion-dollar social-media business named Cachet that prides itself on hiring skillful hackers whose know-how have made its CEO confident that all of its clients data is safe and secure from any and all attacks. The film also spotlights two other women related to the event, Erin (Thomas, Backwards), Naomi's protégé in the firm who has been anxiously awaiting seeing more money and opportunities come her way, especially now that she has a baby on the way, and Naomi's friend from way back, Samantha (Reiner, That Awkward Moment), a federal prosecutor for the Justice Department who has reemerged in her life in her investigation of alleged securities fraud.
Filmed on a modest budget, Equity rises above its limitations and inherent jargon-heavy talkiness through a solid cast, with an especially strong central performance from Anna Gunn, deft direction from Meera Menon (Farah Goes Bang), a professional sheen in its lighting and cinematography, and an electronic score that keeps the tempo moving with intrigue and flair. Also impressive is the quality of the characterizations and writing, with a solid screenplay from Amy Fox (Heights), taken from her idea she introduced with co-stars Thomas and Reiner, who also produce the film. Naomi Bishop is seen as a woman who has dedicated her entire life to her career, forgoing marriage and kids to get where she is today -- something that seems to rankle many a man around her who expect to use their charms on her to get what they want. She wrestles with whether to continue to push forth effort to promote the married Erin once she hears of a baby on the way, knowing that her time, interest, and focus may not be where it needs to be when the work needs a quick, calculated decision.
While the insider business side of things is rife with choice material, less authentic in its delivery is the means of gathering information, whether by Samantha's fraud investigation, or through finding leaks for information among several key characters. While the conduct is believable, there's a contrived nature to conversations involving secrets and culpability that should take more effort to squeeze out than what is shown in this movie. Nevertheless, it does showcase a side to insider business dealings not otherwise covered in other films of its ilk; it won't supplant Oliver Stone's Wall Street as the pinnacle of slimy stock market movies, but fans of that seminal 1980s film should definitely give this modern update a look.
©2016 Vince Leo