Arbitrage is a thriller for adults. There are no stunts, no loud soundtrack and no one rips the entrails out of a scantily clad teenager by the light of the full moon. Arbitrage is for corduroy jacket wearing chin strokers who prefer more buck than bang and, in this tale of a fraudulent billionaire who slowly sees his structured world collapse around him, that’s exactly what they get.
Richard Gere plays New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller – smoother than Barry White in a crushed velvet suit and a ruffled shirt – a man who seemingly has it all. Beneath his respectable exterior he is cheating on his elegant wife (Susan Sarandon) with a beautiful young mistress (Laetitia Casta) and is deceiving his accountant daughter (Brit Marling) along with the rest of the business world thanks to a bad investment that requires him to cover up his mistake and offload his company before his financial world caves in on him. When it looks like the huge deal that could save his bacon may go south, Miller is involved in a sudden, tragic accident that sees him call upon the help of his late employee’s son Jimmy (Nate Parker) and attract the attention of the suspicious Detective Bryer (Tim Roth).
A wordy, stylish thriller, Arbitrage has class written all over it. Gere gives his best performance in years as the beleaguered executive at the heart of the tale. Imagine his American Gigolo character grown up and gone mainstream and you have Robert Miller. A man so confident of his own abilities and charm that when real life comes knocking his default setting is to try and wriggle his way out of trouble rather than face his mistakes. Miller could so easily have been an odious, almost villainous, character in a lesser actor’s hands but Gere finds the sympathy in this fraudulent, duplicitous man that makes the audience feel complicit in his actions.
Marling continues to impress as Miller’s daughter, slowly coming to the realisation that daddy dearest isn’t quite as lily white as she had believed and Sarandon makes the most of an underwritten role. Roth’s dogged detective is interestingly a mirror image of Miller himself, not adverse to questionable methods to achieve his goal, but it’s Nate Parker as the honorable Jimmy who deserves the attention and almost swipes the film out from under Gere.
First time writer/director Nicholas Jarecki acquits himself remarkably well considering his relatively modest budget with the locations adding to the opulent air of Miller’s corporate world while cinematographer Yorick Le Saux paints a pretty picture of uptown New York.
Arbitrage is a seductive thriller, eschewing big set pieces for atmosphere and intelligent storytelling but most of all it’s worth a look for Gere’s classy turn.