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'Industry': The Ruthless Battles in Finance
November 9, 2020  | By David Hinckley
 


A new British drama titled Industry becomes the latest production to suggest that breaking into the world of high finance requires mortgaging your body and soul.

And that's just your ante to get to the table.

Industry, which premieres in the U.S. Monday at 10 p.m. ET on HBO, follows a group of rookies trying to make the team at Pierpoint & Co., one of the largest and most prestigious investment banks in London.

The welcoming address from their boss, Eric Tao (Ken Leung), curtly informs them that their work will be evaluated after six months, and half of them will be fired.

Good talk.

As this suggests, Industry paints the financial services field as a cross between Billions and The Hunger Games.

With a potentially large ensemble cast, writers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay wisely whittle their focus down to five of the hopefuls, most prominently Harper Stern (Myha'la Herrold, top), a New Yorker who has traveled to London to prove she can succeed in and eventually star at a platinum company.

Just getting her foot in the door has required enhancing her modest background, which is way more working-class than Pierpoint ordinarily even looks at. She retains her connection with some of the folks back home, which makes for an interesting contrast with most of her new colleagues.

On the plus side, Eric sees something in her, although the Machiavellian principles that Eric admires don't necessarily make the bearer a better human being.

Harper naturally bonds at first with some of the outliers in her group, including the strung-out Hari (Nabhaan Rizwan).

The remainder includes the mix most people would create for a show like Industry. There's the blueblood Gus Sackey (David Jonsson), an Eton graduate born into this stratum. He rooms with Robert Spearing (Harry Lawtey), who apparently has watched movies about the world of high finance and seems to have concluded that a hard-partying lifestyle with a never-ending diet of drugs and women is the way things roll.

Yasmin Kara-Hanani (Marisa Abela) comes from privilege, too. At Pierpoint, that makes her boss not take her seriously, which is not the response for which she had been hoping.

If this makes Industry sound like a bunch of vaguely familiar characters and storylines wrapped up in rapid-fire dialogue built on financial shorthand, that's not an unreasonable conclusion.

We're not looking here at a bunch of scrappy kids working hard for a break. They're working hard, but even the ones who have to fight to be taken seriously know they've signed on to a world where nice guys often end up as roadkill.

It doesn't help that Harper, in particular, faces a couple of extraordinary situations in her first few days on the job. They move the story along, but they feel like a little too much too soon. We haven't even gotten all the characters straightened out yet.

The first episode of Industry, directed by Lena Dunham (Girls), aims to make the larger point that in this world of big dollars, those drawn to it may have big appetites.

Those who succeed presumably can indulge those appetites, as we have seen in several real-life cases over the past few years. Industry suggests that just the existence of that carrot will draw an endless supply of hopeful rabbits.

 
 
 
 
 
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