“Dudes only” — that might as well be the motto when it comes to big-screen finance dramas such as The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short. In Equity, an explosive corporate thriller, a dynamite Anna Gunn fights back. As investment banker Naomi Bishop, the Breaking Bad Emmy winner comes out blazing, and it’s not just the dickheads at the top she’s gunning for. Even her hedge-funder boyfriend, Michael Connor (James Purefoy, oozing seductive sleaze), will exploit her for selfish reasons. She can’t trust the women in her life either: Her protégé, Erin Manning (Sarah Megan Thomas), is eying her job while hiding her own dirty secret in this kind of business — she’s pregnant. And her college BFF, Samantha Ryan (a superb Alysia Reiner), is now working for the feds, and she’s this close to nailing Naomi for securities fraud.
To the credit of this scrappy, admirably femcentric film, crisply directed by Meera Menon from a tightly wound script by Amy Fox (with Reiner and Thomas also doing double-duty as producers), Equity refuses to paint a rosy picture of women at the top. Naomi’s new IPO, an alleged privacy protector called Cachet, can make her reputation. But when she finds a flaw in the system, she must consider: Tell the truth or save her ass?
Simplistic? Maybe. But Gunn’s performance, alert to every nuance, is award-caliber. Her frustration erupts in a soon-to-be-famous scene in which a male employee gives her a cookie with fewer chocolate chips than the one he just ate. Gunn is a sight to see. I’m with her.