Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Starring: Richard Gere, Brit Marling, Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Laetitia Casta.
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Synopsis: A troubled hedge fund magnate desperate to complete the sale of his trading empire, makes an error that forces him to turn to an unlikely person for help.
I’ve always felt Richard Gere is an often undervalued actor. This is probably due to his links as the stereotypical romantic lead in the likes of AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMEN, PRETTY WOMAN and RUNAWAY BRIDE. After those huge box-office hits left the ladies swooning, it’s easy to forget his superb roles in Terrence Malick’s DAYS OF HEAVEN, Paul Schrader’s AMERICAN GIGOLO and my own personal favourite, the sadistic corrupt police officer, Dennis Peck, in Mike Figgis’ twisted cop thriller, INTERNAL AFFAIRS. ARBITRAGE sees Gere back in those, latter, murkier worlds and he’s all the better for it as the film gives him the chance to shine as he charms the pants off the ladies (literally), before getting his hands dirty (metaphorically).
Here, he plays Robert Miller and is the corporate head of a hedge fund company and a seemingly indestructible force in the investment world, who has come out of the recent economic collapse unscathed and effectively thriving. His astute daughter (Marling) runs part of the successful company and is heir to an empire of power and wealth, while his loving family life appears as treasured as much as his business. All is not well though, and it’s the decision to sell his trading business that has his savvy daughter digging through books to uncover a calculating black hole.
That aforementioned family life is also a facade, as he secretly slips away from naive wife (Sarandon) to his much younger and artistic mistress (Casta), who’s desperate for him to end his marriage. It’s this problem that lands Miller in even more hot-water, when he falls a sleep at the wheel after driving to one of their private get-aways. Killing his lover instantly. Bruised and battered, he walks away to assure his reputation remains intact with the help of long, forgotten friend (Parker), who lives nearby.
Complicating matters is Tim Roth’s dogged detective who is soon sniffing around. Instinctively knowing Miller is the ghost who walked away from the scene of the crash, but lacking the evidence to tie him to the case. His determination and methods blur the lines as much as Miller’s illegal activities. Nicholas Jarecki’s script and direction is taut and the tension slowly unwinds for all and the focus on the troubling financial side of Miller could have been nail-biting enough on it’s own. The subject matter worked for last year’s MARGIN CALL. However, when they explore his private life, it adds extra layers to his imperfections and shows there is more than just greed and power in his ‘secret’ life that could ultimately be his undoing.
It’s not just all about Miller’s flaws though, Jarecki assures we see all sides of these predicaments and gives enough character development to supporting characters. Roth, especially, chews through many scenes. Nate Parker also is impressive as the forgotten son of a former employee asked to cover for his late father’s boss. He’s not entirely sure what he’s covering for but the subsequent damage is becoming increasingly aimed in his direction. As the conclusion creeps, it all culminates to the fact that each of these are individuals are willing participants. No-one walks away as sympathetic or unscathed from the actions of someone so successful. Each has blood on their hands, or at least dipped their toes in Miller’s murky world to assure their future. Puppets on a string spring to mind. Even Miller’s smug businessman is given dose of his own medicine but this (morality) tale is essentially saying everyone has their price for coming out on top, no matter whose side your on.
ARBITRAGE is Gere’s film though. It’s the actors finest role since the much underrated (and under seen) thrillers, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES and THE FLOCK. The film is gripping and certainly leaves you with plenty to think about.