Equity review: hotly toxic tale of women on Wall Street is a greedy treat

This accomplished finance drama feels fresh for its gender-switch dynamics – but did all the men need to be quite so dim?

Equity is likely one of the more realistic financial sector films out there because I had no idea what the hell anybody was talking about. Well, that’s not exactly true. Director Meera Menon and her three leads, Anna Gunn, Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner, extract the drama from Amy Fox’s screenplay while still leaving the jargon intact. I don’t know squat about IPOs (if I did, I’d be on my yacht) but I do know a juicy morality play when I see it, and Equity takes us inside modern Wall Street in a unique and gripping manner.

You may have noticed that all the names listed so far are women. That this is a “female look” at Wall Street is more than a marketing gimmick. Like our main character Naomi Bishop (Gunn) this movie strives to make it on its own terms, avoiding opportunities to draw attention to it being any less of a corporate thriller than one starring men. Of course, when your lead is, in fact, a woman, as is her (perhaps untrustworthy) second-in-command (Thomas) as well as the old college chum now working for the government investigating securities fraud (Reiner), we are seeing this familiar world through new eyes.

New for film audiences, that is, not new for actual working women for whom announcing pregnancy is met with a steely “congratulations” which implies “your career is over, how dare you knife me in the back this way?”

The actual plot of Equity is, to a degree, less interesting than the keenly observed moments of the world of high finance. Bishop is a big shot banker who brings companies in on their initial public offerings. Again, I don’t precisely know how this works, but Menon makes every scene understandable to dunces like me who will never know the difference between buying stocks or playing roulette. Bishop’s last deal went bust because the client decided, at the last minute, that he didn’t trust her. The rumour is as simple as he didn’t like her dress. But this new company, a new social network run by an obnoxious pipsqueak in a hoodie (Samuel Roukin), is going to make everyone a zillion dollars.


There are, however, a few problems. Bishop discovers from a hacker (another woman) that the new company is not quite as impervious to attack as they claim. Then there’s Bishop’s boyfriend (James Purefoy), who is some other kind of banker, but is corrupt, and tries to squeeze info out of Bishop. She won’t offer it up, though. She is ruthless in business, but never dishonest. But her long put-upon assistant might be the weak link. Meanwhile Samantha the investigator (who has two children and a female partner back home) uses her female wiles with men to snoop around for illegalities.

This all builds to a sequence where everyone runs around the floor of the stock exchange shouting: “Buy! buy! buy!” but by this time you’ll realise that no matter what the outcome is, this is a toxic and irredeemable system. (Much like steroids in sports, isn’t just time to assume that everyone making real money on Wall Street is using insider info?)

There are a number of fascinating themes to chew on in Fox’s script, but for me nothing tops watching Bishop tussle with the knowledge that her company’s product may be flawed. The implication is all about how it will effect the deal and her perception in the company’s eyes, and if she’ll be indemnified once the service is inevitably revealed to be bunk. Not once does the issue of screwing over the consumer come up. Keep in mind, this is the good guy we’re talking about!

All of the performances are top notch, and if there’s any justice Equity will propel Anna Gunn to A-list status. The only by-the-numbers characters, actually, are the men. Purefoy is just a boy version of a femme fatale, and Alyssa Reiner’s cheap suit-wearing partner is straight from central casting. Is Meera Menon so dedicated a feminist that she’ll intentionally make the male characters one-dimensional, to counteract that hundreds of movies with bland wives and girlfriends? Probably not, but for a movie all about deception for a bigger payoff, I’d like to pretend that it’s so.


Jordan Hoffman

The GuardianTramp

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