Movie Reviews

‘Arbitrage’: Move over Madoff

By Azim AzmanMovies - 27 December 2012 12:00 AM

‘Arbitrage’: Move over Madoff

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Rating: 3.5  stars out of 5

Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a man who by any measure is the epitome of American success. Successful hedge fund, private planes, chauffeured Maybachs, expensive townhouses in a gilded neighbourhood, a perfect loving family and a temperamental but sexy mistress. Except the only reason he and his hedge fund have not been declared bankrupt is because of he has cooked the books, and that he is looking to quickly sell off his business for a profit so that his big sour bet will not be uncovered.

The key moment comes when he gets into an accident on a dark deserted road, which kills his mistress who was sleeping the passenger seat. Obviously a man of his standing cannot just call the police; he has a reputation to protect and perhaps more importantly needs to avoid a criminal investigation that would possibly derail the big deal which would stave off his financial ruin.

‘Arbitrage’ is Nicholas Jarecki’s first outing as a director and, for the most part, does not betray itself as the director’s debut feature. This cerebral thriller does not partake in any unnecessary car chases or shoot outs that Hollywood seems so keen on using. Neither does it require the audience to know financial instruments to understand why Miller’s perfect little world is crumbling. It was such a joy to watch a mainstream film that respects the audience and does not resort to cheap theatrical devices.

It thrives on tight story telling and Richard Gere’s very strong performance. It was a shame that Susan Sarandon could not play a bigger role in the movie as Ellen Miller, the suffering wife who is well aware of her husband’s various infidelities, but who choses to remain quiet to keep the family together (or for the money, but it’s Christmas so let’s not be cynical).

The one blot would be their perfect daughter Brooke, played by Britt Marling, whose Excel reading nous led her to uncover her father’s fraudulent ways. Marling’s acting was just too wooden for it to be likeable.

The spotlight rightly falls on Richard Gere who looks absolutely regal in the movie. The story required a strong character performance and Gere delivered a performance that absolutely hit the proverbial nail on the head. He was able to play his character with so much nuance that you could actually understand the why Millers chose the compromises that led him down the road of both moral and near financial ruin.

You start off disgusted with this man who seems to be the smug archetypical Wall Street fat cat who exists in a whole other orbit to us hoi polloi. But then we see the human behind this outward personality and you end up secretly rooting for this man.

This is perhaps where Jarecki falters a wee bit though—his attempt to finish off his tapestry is too hurried and results in some improbable plot gambles towards the end. The ending itself is ambiguous and leaves something to be desired. Perhaps Jarecki was trying to offer a commentary on how the wealthy seem to be treated differently in the eyes lady justice, or perhaps this was a premise for a sequel, but whatever it was, it left we us feeling unfulfilled.

Don’t let that put you off; overall this movie is well worth watching.

‘Arbitrage’ opens in theatres 27 December 2012