Equity review

A women-led Wall Street drama might be a bit of a challenge to sell but it makes a refreshing change. Equity is a bit of a slow burn but once it does get going, it involves and grips. The acting, story and dialogue are all strong, at least as far as the female characters are concerned.

Relishing a rare chance to play a complex character in a complicated, intelligent story, Anna Gunn hungrily grabs hold of her star role as tough-as-nails senior investment banker Naomi Bishop, who has to hold back a tsunami of financial scandal and corruption. Firing from all barrels, Gunn bites it up, chews it off and spits it out.

Two other actresses relish their equally rewarding star roles - Sarah Megan Thomas as Erin Manning, Naomi's despised mousy-seeming, pregnant underling, and Alysia Reiner as Samantha, an ex-pal who is now working as an official snooping into her case. Samantha makes Naomi seem nice. But then so of course does Erin eventually. She's going to turn out to be Anne Baxter to Bette Davis's All About Eve.

Naturally, the film suffers from the usual Wall Street drama problem of all the characters being so unpleasant you want to turn away. But, like with a car wreck, you try and just can't quite manage not to stop and stare.

Interestingly, James Purefoy draws the short straw as the male lead, a sleazy individual, a colleague who is having an affair with Naomi. It's not a well written role, noticeably less well written than the female parts, and it gives Purefoy a lot of problems trying to make it work. Ditto, Craig Bierko, whose role as Benji Akers is so insignificant you hardly notice he's even there, and that can't be good as he's the next down male lead. Anyway, you can take or leave the men, they are mere wallpaper, Wall Street wallpaper. 

The women who wrote this – who just happen to be Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner (as well as Amy Fox) – know how to write great roles for women, for themselves anyway, but they don't seem to know anything about men, or care about them at all. No matter, the men are nothing to the story, mere cyphers.

And the story? It is a power game thriller, and exerts an increasingly strong hold as it goes along, after a sluggish start. I can't say I ever really cared about the characters or the story, but I did get involved and was eventually hooked, and did want to see how it all panned out. I'm not sure I really entirely believed it either, but at the same time it does seem reasonably realistic and plausible.

It is certainly good to have a civilised film for grown-ups, with no car chases or CGI, in with a chance at the multiplex as it is released by Sony. It started out life as an indie movie, so this is excellent.

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Derek Winnert is a Screenjabber contributor

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