Lowdown: A high rolling financier tries to get away with illegal financing and responsibility for the death of his mistress.
Do you remember the last time you’ve seen Richard Gere in a meaningful role? Frankly, I don’t remember much of him since An Officer and a Gentleman and Pretty Woman. And even more frankly, it’s not like I’ve been holding my breath in anticipation for his next flick. Still, I have to admit, with his (?) silver hair, he does fit the role he’s been cast into with Arbitrage.
Miller (Gere) is a high flying financier, rolling millions this way and that for a living. He's well equipped for the task, armed with a prestigious New York address, a chauffeur and a token wife (Susan Sarandon). But while his family and at least some of the people working for him like him, we quickly learn the guy’s a sleazebag. He’s cheating the markets as well as cheating on his wife with a young artist whom he “sponsors” (Laetitia Casta).
Trouble magnifies for Miller when he falls asleep driving for his weekend getaway with the mistress. The latter, failing to strap her seatbelt, dies. And now Miller has the police (detective Tim Roth) on his track while totally relying on the testimony of a black youngster from Harlem to get away with murder. Can he pull it off?
What follows is a sort of a thriller/drama of a type that, frankly, we’ve seen too many times before. There are some reliability problems in the black young helper being so loyal to Miller; this whole aspect of the story is dodgy. There are also more mundane problems with the film being far too slow for its own good. Gere delivers a fine performance, but is it enough to make the grade? I did not think so.
To its credit, Arbitrage is very artistically directed. Shots where we follow Gere’s silver plume into a room full of people are the stuff that’s missing from too many other movies. Then there is the whole idea of immorality applying both to the personal as well as the big markets, thus pointing an accusing fingers at the guy running/ruining our economy and our lives: one cannot be good in one area and bad in another; once you're bad, you're bad all the way. Add to that the concept of us viewers identifying with Miller, the hero of the film, to the point of crossing a finger or two for him getting away with it despite knowing fully well he’s an asshole.
Overall: Some fine points in its favor, but when all is said and done Arbitrage is a thriller that simply doesn’t thrill as much as it should. 2.5 out of 5 stars.