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A sexy and topical corporate thriller from Netflix

Young, vigorous and getting richer with each passing second, Emily and Luke work at a hedge fund called One Crest Capital in New York. Their relationship (they live together) violates company policy, but so far so good; their discretion paid off. The hedge fund, dominated by cocky, paranoid brothers, has bigger problems; they’re usually about recently fired financial analysts getting their walking papers and breaking things on the way out, fighting back tears of anger and shame.

The collapse of the latest manager leaves a much-desired position. Emily nodded. Luke’s reaction seems a little more mature and supportive than Emily or the audience might have expected. Writer-director Chloe Domont then makes a shrewd feature debut, turning “Fair Play” into an examination of relational tension, workplace intrigue and the least balanced example of work/life balance imaginable.

Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, “Fair Play” has been praised for bringing back the “sexy corporate thriller,” a ’90s staple that somehow managed to portray women as she-wolves from another planet. You can call it that if you want. But I think the movie works because, as a couple, Emily (Phoebe Dynevor of “Bridgerton” and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich of “Solo” and “Oppenheimer”)) transcend simple character dynamics—before and after the mutual undermining begins—and Emily’s promotion

They are both cunning and rather ruthless capitalists. Emily’s instincts outweigh Luke’s, and it may just be a matter of numbers that pushes Emily up the chain, while the lazier and more indecisive Luke remains neutral – the millions won for the boss, played carefully without batting an eyelid by Eddie Marsan. If he’s lucky.

The performances match the film’s secretive, flamboyant and slightly otherworldly aura. (The film was shot primarily in Serbia, with a few New York establishing shots.) Domont worked on “Ballers” and “Billions,” among other shows, and here he delves further into interesting ambiguities such as motif, ethics, and price. apparent success or failure. The film’s sense of casual irony keeps the scenes going; In one scene, a diversity, equity, and inclusion (and harassment) training presentation, with every sibling in the room swiping their phones, forms the backdrop for the latest pink slip in the corner office.

“Fair Game” actually manages to play fair in terms of balancing our antipathy with our voyeuristic interest in what’s going on. Some are humorously inevitable; The moment Luke is overlooked for his secret fiancee’s promotion, you can almost hear the sound of his lustful urge hitting the floor. plop. I’m not sure the story’s resolution fully serves what came before it; It’s not exactly predictable and avoids veering into a different genre just for the sake of excitement, yet Domont’s writing and direction are competent enough to make me want a few extra minutes in the final round.

These are minor disadvantages in a small-scale but big-reward project. Take your time to see.

“Fair Game” — 3.5 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: R (for explicit language, sexual content, some nudity and sexual violence)

Running time: 1:53

How to watch: Premieres in limited release on September 29; It releases on Netflix on October 6.

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

mjphillips@chicagotribune.com

excitement @phillipstribune



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