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Arbitrage Review

By Mark Grady

Top Gere


It's hard to say exactly what happened to Richard Gere's career. Since storming onto the Hollywood scene with back-to-back classics "American Gigolo" and "An Officer and a Gentleman" he has put together a solid resume of well-performing films, wisely sharing the screen with the likes of Bruce Willis, Sean Connery, Edward Norton, and Julia Roberts (twice!). Sure, he may have gone to the chick-flick well a few too many times (witness airplane staple "Nights in Rodanthe"), but he always manages to intersperse more interesting, if not always commercially successful, choices such as "Primal Fear" and "The Mothman Prophesies". He's never been a particularly versatile actor, but what he did he did well. There really aren't any terrible professional missteps in his past (the persistent hamster rumor notwithstanding) and no total bombs that suggest that he's unmarketable. It's just that somewhere along the way (pretty much right after "Chicago", actually) people just stopped caring. And so, his sum total of work since 2010 is last year's pointless "The Double" and this year's significantly better "Arbitrage".

Gere's character in "Arbitrage", Robert Miller, is one of those ultra-rich, smarter-than-everyone-else Wall Street-type so common in this post-Madoff world. When everyone else zigs, he zags. When everyone else buys, he sells. And he always makes the right move - except for when he doesn't. Finding himself in a situation that George Bailey could appreciate, Miller's only hope to save himself, and his investors, from ruin is the pending sale of his firm. Unfortunately, he has also been playing it fast and loose in his personal life which suddenly unravels in a disastrous way threatening not only the sale but his marriage and his freedom. Finding himself investigated by dogged Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth, "Pulp Fiction", "Reservoir Dogs") for reasons best not disclosed in advance, he has to rely on Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker, "Red Tails"), the son of a long-term employee, to hold fast to a lie in spite of the massive pressure being brought to bear on him.

Continuing his long history of aligning himself with some serious talent, Mr. Gere is supported by Susan Sarandon ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"), as Ellen Miller, his loving wife, and relative newcomer Brit Marling ("Another Earth") as his daughter and Chief Investment Officer in his firm. Both do some very nice work, and convey a real sense of familial relationship. The aforementioned Mr. Roth is also a pleasure to watch, bringing a great deal of depth to his comparatively small role and Mr. Parker perfectly captures the desperation and conflict of a person who finds himself completely out of his depth and on the verge of crumbling. The A-game brought by the cast, which also includes a litany of great cameo appearances including Graydon Carter, Bruce Altman, and William Friedkin, has the extra benefit of raising Mr. Gere's game and he gives one of the more fleshed-out performances of his career, but that's not really saying much. At the end of the day, he's still essentially playing the same character he always plays, but given the movie it does work to great effect.

The real star, though, is the screenplay by Nicolas Jareki ("The Informers"), who also handled the directorial duties. Both behind the typewriter and behind the camera he keeps things moving along at a good clip and keeps the audience guessing. There are some nice twists, but they serve the story rather than feeling like they were added solely for the sake of messing with the audience, a fault all too common these days. There's also an interesting undercurrent of class warfare running throughout, but it is handled naturally and avoids rising to the level of sermonizing. There are a few obvious plot holes, including the fact that some of the financial angling doesn't make a whole lot of sense (special thanks to Wall-Streeter Joe McAlinden for explaining this stuff to me), but they aren't so glaring as to be distracting.

On the whole "Arbitrage" is an engaging an interesting thriller. Well-acted, well-written, and well-directed, it deserves more notice than it will probably get.

What did you think?

Movie title Arbitrage
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary Well-acted, well-written, and well-directed, this financial thriller deserves more notice than it will probably get.
View all articles by Mark Grady
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