The English dictionary defines the word arbitrage as “The purchase of securities on one market for immediate resale on another market in order to profit from a piece of discrepancy”. In many ways this is what happens in this film of the same name. Many things are thrown at you during Arbitrage and to the uninitiated it can easily come across as a piece of business jargon.
Robert Miller is an extremely successful hedge fund manager. In the opening scenes of this movie we see his multi million-dollar empire right before us. He has loyal colleagues, a loving family and excessive wealth. His face even adorns magazine covers. He has everything. But as always with wealth comes greed. Miller’s company has invested money into a promising young French arts dealer and her gallery. Miller though has been playing away from home, with this feisty young French girl and is dangerously close to tipping everything over the edge. As well as an affair, Miller has been tinkering with the books of his firm. It’s a troublesome concoction that culminates in a fatal car crash. Fearing his sordid deals will be exposed, Miller takes drastic action and turns to the son of a former employee for help.
Arbitrage plays out like a classic piece of sleek 90’s cinema. It has all the corrupt businessmen and fiery temptresses that we associate with that period. It has old school tendencies but its overly complex narrative causes too many problems. So many differing stories are thrown out you throughout its story arc that it can be incredibly hard to maintain a focus on any of them. From romances to stock markets and crooked cops to family loyalty, Arbitrage is ambitious in what it tries to achieve but it suffers because of it. If anything it could have worked as a potentially excellent TV show.
Despite its problems in story, there are things to like about Arbitrage. Richard Gere, as he is in nearly all his films, is captivating. The majority of the film centers on him and his dealings so whenever he isn’t on screen the movie somehow how loses all momentum. He has such a strong screen presence throughout Arbitrage that even great actors like Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth fail to hold a light to him. If Richard Gere hadn’t have been in the film, its possible that this film would have been a real stinker. Thankfully he is, and for anyone who is a fan of ‘The man who blinks’, you will find a lot to appreciate here.
Apart from Gere’s performance the film looks magnificent. It has a washed out, almost pale, complexion that gives it a classy yet slightly edgy look that runs in conjunction with the films themes. If you can visualize the style of a Michael Mann film, then you are more or less there. To add to the atmosphere of the film, director Nicholas Jarecki has chosen a diverse but ambient soundtrack that runs like a pulse of the movie.
Those interested in sitting back and reveling in the glory of Richard Gere will find a lot to enjoy in Arbitrage. As Robert Miller, Gere carries this film on his back. Even Gere’s character at one point bellows “I am a patriarch”. This couldn’t be truer of Arbitrage.