Arbitrage

Cast:
Richard Gere as Robert Miller
Tim Roth as Det. Michael Bryer
Susan Sarandon as Ellen Miller
Brit Marling as Brooke Miller
Nate Parker as Jimmy Grant
Monica Raymund as Reina
Laetitia Casta as Julie Cote
Josh Pais as Aimes
Bruce Altman as Chris Vogler
Stuart Margolin as Syd Felder
Larry Pine as Jeffrey Greenberg
Austin Lysy as Peter Miller
Evelina Turen as Emma
Felix Solis as Deferlito
Sophie Curtis as Ava Stanton
Io Bottoms as Mae
Gabrielle Lazure as Sandrine Côte
Curtiss Cook as Detective Mills
Quinn Friedman as Quinn Miller
Rachel Heller as Rachel

Directed by Nicholas Jarecki

Review:
When Nicholas Jarecki’s dramatic feature debut played at Sundance earlier this year, all the buzz was about Richard Gere playing a “Bernie Madoff-like” character and comparisons were immediately made to last year’s economic crash drama “Margin Call” sight unseen. Comparisons may have been premature since this isn’t just about the business and financials as much about how greed and corruption impacts a hedge fund manager’s personal life.

In fact, “Arbitrage” probably owes more to Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton” or Altman’s “The Player,” and similarly, it’s a great showcase for Richard Gere as an actor as he plays Robert Miller, a wealthy Wall Street “oracle” on the verge of selling his company for hundreds of millions to a bank who has been stalling on closing the deal. He’s turned Miller Capitol into a family business with his daughter Brooke acting as the CFO, but just as the sale is about to be finalized, she finds some questionable numbers on the books. At the same time, Miller becomes involved in a deadly accident, and realizing he needs to cover up his involvement, he calls upon Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), a young African-American man from Harlem to pick him up and create an alibi. The next 40 minutes branches into two and three-pronged storytelling where we follow the detective on the case (Tim Roth) trying to get enough evidence to take Miller down while Brooke tries to get her father to talk to her about why the numbers don’t add up.

This is classic filmmaking like we used to see in the ’70s from the likes of Sidney Lumet and William Friedkin, which is quite an impressive achievement for a filmmaker tackling fiction for the first time. Making a film like “Arbitrage” work is all about having a solid script and a cast that can pull the most out of every dramatic moment. In this case, Jarecki has written one of the best scripts this year, opening with the definition of a slow build by introducing us to Miller over the first 20 minutes, which isn’t that interesting in itself until the second act kicks into high gear with the accident and we get to see what Miller will do to save his butt. Miller is a man used to getting anything he wants and apparently getting away with things, and when you have his kind of money, it’s assumed you can buy your way out of any situation. Fans of strong television drama should appreciate the way Jarecki slowly tears Miller’s life apart while at the same time showing how resourceful he is at getting out of situations. His success at business is certainly no fluke accident.

Much of why Miller works so well as a character comes down to the fact that it feels like a role tailor-made for Gere, and it allows him to achieve a new peak in his career similar to when Michael Douglas played Gordon Gecko in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street.” His delivery may feel a bit heavy at times but other moments are so note-perfect it’s clear Gere has just been waiting for a role as perfect as this one.

He’s surrounded by an equally terrific cast including newer faces like Nate Parker and Brit Marling, each who have great dramatic scenes with Gere, but the real ringer is Susan Sarandon, reunited with Gere for the first time since the remake of “Shall We Dance?” who really takes things to another level as his wife.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems like the pacing of the first act and Tim Roth’s overly emphasized New York accent, as well as the couple of times when Gere comes on a bit too strong, but they’re fairly minor and fans of strong drama should appreciate Jarecki’s efforts.

The Bottom Line:
With “Arbitrage,” Nicholas Jarecki delivers a brilliant script and well-constructed drama set within the financial world that showcases an unforgettable performance by Richard Gere.

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