Meera Menon’s Wall Street drama Equity ostensibly aims to address the lack of female power players in the financial industry by showing us Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn), an ambitious investment banker hungry to drag in a lucrative IPO for her firm. Two large problems with that: 1) Other women, and men, stand in her way; and 2) Naomi is so ruthless that it’s difficult to identify with her.
She comes across as a female Gordon Gekko as she makes her iron-jawed pitch in the boardroom, and even though she eats steak with the boys and romances a similarly gung-ho male colleague on her company’s banking side (James Purefoy), Naomi has to claw and connive for every break. Throw in the company’s feral CEO (Lee Tergesen) and Naomi’s hella-duplicitous young subordinate (Sarah Megan Thomas), and it’s no wonder our gal boxes at the gym. Throw in an old college schoolmate (Alysia Reiner), now working for the feds investigating illegal insider trading — the bankers’ nickname for the US Attorney’s office is “the departure lounge” — and it’s everything Naomi and her colleagues can do just to stay out of jail. Law-breaking and back-stabbing are their way of doing business. Naomi doesn’t have a true friend in the world.
Working from a screenplay by Amy Fox and actors Thomas and Reiner, director Menon gets worthy perfs from her cast, but we can’t help thinking that if they wanted to demonstrate Naomi’s integrity as a woman in the workplace, they would have put her in a different industry. Actress Gunn, a sensation as Skyler White on Breaking Bad, has a much tougher job with Naomi. She earns our pity to a degree, but it’s the pity we might have for a lioness who brings down a gazelle only to have it stolen by hyenas.