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The financial thriller "Equity" is a polished nail-biter about double-dealing on Wall Street.
The fact that co-stars Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas also produced the movie, and hired women to direct and write it, makes its message that women can back-stab as efficiently as the men all the more powerful.
Anna Gunn, late of "Breaking Bad," stars as Naomi Bishop, an investment banker eager to take over her boss's corner office. First, she must shepherd a high-risk IPO for a tech company led by a charismatic Brit (Samuel Roukin).
Getting the deal going, though, has Naomi questioning the motives of people around her: her ambitious assistant, Erin (played by Thomas); her sneaky stock-trader boyfriend (James Purefoy); and a college acquaintance, Samantha (played by Reiner), a U.S. Attorney recently assigned to the white-collar unit and investigating Naomi's firm for insider trading.
The cast is solid, with relative unknowns Reiner ("Orange Is the New Black") and Thomas carving out strong roles for themselves. Best of all is Gunn, who sweeps the movie along in the wake of her fierce central performance as a woman who has sacrificed much to play in the boys' sandbox and is slowly realizing that's still not enough to get ahead.
Screenwriter Amy Fox (who shares story credit with Thomas and Reiner) weaves an intricate and riveting yarn, as Naomi stays a step ahead of everyone in her way. Director Meera Menon ("Farah Goes Bang") sets an exciting pace and creates a sleek look a neat trick when working with an indie-film budget, which usually only allows for business-casual.
And while "Equity" scores points for its feminist credentials, the movie never feels like it's pandering. Its leading women are powerful, yes, but they're also flawed and corruptible in other words, less like role models and more like real people.
A female investment banker claws to the top in this sleek, smart thriller with a pointed message.
Where • Area theaters.
When • Opens Friday, Aug. 26.
Rating • R for language throughout.
Running time • 100 minutes.