Arbitrage doesn't take enough risks
Starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, October 12, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Richard Gere’s silver-haired Robert Miller, a sleeker, more charming Gordon Gekko for the post-bailout era, is a hedge-fund manager from hell—that is, his absence of soul burns everyone around him, one way or another.
When we meet our frequent Forbes cover boy, Miller is having what must be his most wicked week ever. Because stealing millions and then scrambling for cover isn’t interesting enough anymore, he’s also running around with a French “art tart” (as his wife later puts it), and there’s a sudden death to make the clock tick louder.
Arbitrage is a first feature for writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, the youngest of an ex–Wall Street honcho’s three sons, all of whom have made tough documentaries. The new film doesn’t have much visual style, and its plot is filled with overly familiar crime-flick devices: the rule-breaking detective (Tim Roth, going all Brooklyn on us), the noble black kid (Nate Parker), the disappointed daughter (brittle Brit Marling), and so forth.
As Miller’s not-so-suffering wife, Susan Sarandon is underused, but it’s still interesting to see her, for once, play a character whose sense of entitlement exceeds her generosity. There are also juicy bits with a grizzled Stuart Margolin as Gere’s secretive law whisperer, Bruce Altman as an accountant helping him tuck away a fraudulently borrowed 400 million dollars, and, of all people, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter as a Bernie Madoff–like banker upon whom our oily antihero hopes to unload his company before it implodes.
Impressively, Gere invests his aging narcissist with some complexity of motivation while making it clear that the guy truly believes that all his cheating, lying, and worse are undertaken “for the family”. I just wish the director had risked more by delving further—perhaps with more impressionistic weirdness and fewer plot schematics—into the specific pathologies of a power broker whose most visible shades of gray are found in his Italian suits.
Watch the trailer for Arbitage.