Arbitrage

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Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki, ”Arbitrage” is a morality play veiled as a murder mystery.

Richard Gere is the bad guy, a troubled hedge-fund manager named Robert Miller. With his million-dollar smile and designer suits, he’s gotten away with a lot – and may continue to doing so. He’s cheating on his wife (Susan Sarandon), is embezzling funds to cover-up a $420 million dollar shortfall that would bury his company, and moreover, has just fled the scene of a crime in which his mistress (Laetitia Casta) was killed.

Everything is crashing down around Miller and yet, he manages to somehow avoid yanking out the surrender flag. But with a nosy cop (Tim Roth) inching closer to the truth behind the aforesaid accident, and Miller’s own daughter (Brit Marling) discovering dad’s dastardly deeds in business – which damages their relationship considerably – it won’t be too long before the ageing sport is down on his knees, beginning to be forgiven for his sins.

There’s a few actors that just piss presence. Bruce Willis is one, Kevin Costner is another , and Richard Gere , he’s bladder full of it.

It’s that smile and sparkle that have made Gere one of today’s most endurable and most easily likeable screen idols. Whether its syrupy but easily entertaining fluff like dollar-dazzling-dame duo “Pretty Woman” and “An Officer and a Gentlemen”, morbidly heavy fare like “Internal Affairs”, “Mr Jones” and “Unfaithful”, or absolute tripe like “Runaway Bride” and “Final Analysis”, the guy’s excessive coat of charisma, combined with an effortless ability to command attention, always adds an extra star to a films critical score.

And it’s the same deal here – Gere doesn’t crunch. Nor spur a stall.

Jarecki’s film, sort of a mesh of ”Presumed Innocent” and ”Wall Street” (in other words, it’s one for those who like to use their heads on occasion – even in the confines of a darkened theatre), plays a lot better than most of the efforts in Gere’s back catalogue though, because it’s story is as tight as it’s star’s Saturday night date.

Gere’s the standout here, giving a immerse and enchantingly evil performance of a successful man on the brink. And he’s surrounded by an equally apt supporting cast, with Susan Sarandon her dependable best as the wife, and newcomer Brit Marling, a scene-stealer as Miller’s grown daughter, now working with her father in the financial world. It’s an excellently performed affair.

Jarecki’s script isn’t to be discounted; those with a keen interest in the ups and downs of business, in particular just how easily things can fall apart or go down the tube, will find something of interest here. In addition, that ‘thriller’ element – the tragic accident that quadruples the lead character’s problems – amplifies ones interest factor.

Gere does make a habit of picking projects that have noticeable issues – which might explain why he’s not a regular fixture at the Oscars – but you’ll be hard pressed finding flaws here. This is a very, very decent film, and undoubtedly one of the best films Gere has made in quite some time.