Sunday, February 05, 2012

Film Review: Equity (2011)

Claire (Francile Albright) is a young mother struggling to pay the rent and to keep a roof over the heads of her family. When a mysterious man (Karl Bury) offers her a job that will solve all her financial problems, she agrees to take it. Unfortunately, the ‘job’ is to kill Jack (Tony Nam), a man who has become estranged from his wife and daughter.  As Claire sees the life that Jack leads, she finds it increasingly difficult to carry out the task assigned to her, even as she knows that the consequences of not doing so will be very dire indeed.

Whilst the idea of someone committing a horrible act in order to provide for their family is one with especial resonance in the current climate, and it does add a sense of timeliness to the film, Equity deals with themes that are far more timeless than our present economic woes. At its heart, it’s a story about people who are willing to do anything to care for the people that they love. The film explores this primarily through Claire’s story, since she is the character who has to decide how far she is prepared to go, and the scenes in which she debates the morality of her assignment with her brother (George Stavropoulos) are the most affecting since they engage with the horror of what is expected of her in a raw, unvarnished manner that perfectly captures Claire’s sense of doubt and trepidation.

Claire also plays a huge part in helping to establish the film’s sense of queasy menace through her encounters with the man who hired her. They only share two scenes – one if which she is given her assignment and one is which he violently chastens her for not completing it quickly enough – but they both have real tension to them. The implied violence under the surface of the film, achieved through compelling performances and distressingly convincing make-up, is beautifully handled and adds an extra layer of danger and consequence to the already high stakes.

Like any good short film, Equity examines its themes quickly, thoroughly and with not a second wasted. More than that, though, it marries those themes to an engaging story, terrific performances and a script that transcends the trappings of the hitman/woman genre. Tense, emotionally fraught and relevant without feeling preachy, Equity is a really fine piece of work.