Sep 13, 2012

Richard Gere is a fox for our times.

Grade: B
Director: Nicholas Jarecki (The Outdsider)
Screenplay: Jarecki (Informers)
Cast: Richard Gere (Nights in Rodanthe), Susan Sarandon (Jeff Who Lives at Home)
Rating: R
by John DeSando

The enjoyable thriller Arbitrage seems to promise a Margin-Call-like reminder of the dangerous Madoff-like gambling and ponziing in stock trading. It is much less than that, but in its own way it draws you in to a world of high finance where this time the people affected play a much larger part than computers and manipulative moguls.

Arbitrage is all about family and allegiances and the flawed decisions made partly on their behalf. Robert Miller (Richard Gere, a fortunate replacement for Al Pacino) has borrowed over $400 million for his company and must give it back at the awkward time of negotiating the company’s sale, which depends on that money to be a part of the company’s value.  Negotiating for that sale is the most fun and maybe most original part of an otherwise clichéd script, where most of the action can be foreseen.

Few actors can carry the silver-tongued, silver fox better these days than Gere, whose toned body and outrageously full hair complement the slippery billionaire who is always minutes away from financial ruin and family disintegration.
While that tension is formulaic, writer/director Nicholas Jarecki does a couple of plot twists that are not predictable, therefore defending the film against derivative charges (pun intended). Plus, the first-rate supporting cast of Susan Sarandon (Miller’s wife), Brit Marling (his daughter), and Tim Roth (the nosey detective) give enough pleasure to keep Arbitrage from being a retread of Wall-Street type films.

The subplot of Miller’s affair with young artist Julie (Laetetia Costa) is distractingly hackneyed except as a metaphoric reminder of how he plays on the edge of jeopardizing business and family. That affair and his business bad habits form a composite of a hundred doomed big shots who think they can fool very smart wives and savvy business associates, much less canny detectives. Ask Bernie Madoff.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
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