“Don’t let money be a dirty word,” says Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn), steely senior investment banker at Remson Partners, as she gives a talk at a wine-and-cheese mixer of Manhattan businesswomen. It’s not quite Wall Street’s “Greed is good,” but it doesn’t have to be. Equity may not be the fanciest or flashiest of financial thrillers—more like off-brand David Fincher or Steven Soderbergh—but it gets the job done. Its major players are all women trying to make careers in boys’ club professions (yes, the title is a play on words); that’s all the motivation the movie offers and perhaps all that it really needs. It skips past the usual handwringing over the temptations of capitalist wealth and just gets right to the risk-taking and double-crossing, assuming (rightly) that viewers don’t need a character to have a backstory, a tragic secret, and a dead spouse, best friend, or parent to understand why they’d do anything to hold on to a career.
Naomi has already been betrayed by the time the story starts—scapegoated for an IPO that didn’t pan out as expected. Her last chance is to make an even bigger gamble, on a privacy-focused social media platform called Cachét that’s ready to take its stock public. At an alumni meet-and-greet, she reconnects with college friend Samantha (Alysia Reiner), a manipulative federal agent who has recently swapped drug trafficking investigations for white-collar financial crime to be closer to her wife and kids. Right now, Samantha’s focused on Michael Connor (James Purefoy), a louche Remson hedge fund deal-maker who just happens to be Naomi’s on-and-off paramour of many years.