Breathless suspense for smart people who respond to imminent threats from diabolical plotting, not action. Arbitrage features Richard Gere as the rich and powerful Robert Miller, perhaps modeled after Bernie Madoff, who lives a double life. His wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) chooses to ignore Robert’s liaisons with a mistress. But the mistress herself is not only way young, but demanding, pouty, and coke-addicted. This is not Robert’s greatest preoccupation at the moment, for he is covering up a $412 million dollar hole in his firm’s books. A corporate raider named Mayfield is the imminent buyer, but he delays the transaction. This is high-stakes cruelty between the elite, I suppose, making the opponent suffer by holding out until the market collapses.
I have to admit when the film started I predicted Gere to be a rich man psychopath who was going to have to construct, and carry out, a perfect murder. Not at all. What does happen, which I’ll reveal discreetly, is that he commits a heinous crime by accident. If he can’t cover it up, and he’s found out, his company will go unsold. He will be revealed of a second crime: fraud on a mass scale.
In these kinds of movies, I really enjoy the dogged detective character, but I especially dug Tim Roth as the chatty manipulator and blackmailer Detective Bryer. He sniffs out motives within a first or second scene, rounding out witnesses and, in one occasion, an accomplice in a jiffy. He’s not one of those Duh(!) detectives that can’t see what we see. That only makes Miller to maestro his own defense with quicker, sharper alibis.
How can a man withstand all this pressure and not crumble within? That’s how writer-director Nicholas Jarecki and Gere command our attention. This used to be the kind of movie that Michael Douglas made so well, and regularly. But Gere, in the best performance he’s given in a long time, is a master of the universe who refuses to surrender wealth because it’s his core identity. He doesn’t blink when it means requesting family members to be complicit with him. Does money buy absolution? Robert Miller seems to think so. The brilliance of the film is to observe credibly if he can get away clean.
107 Minutes. Rated R.
SUSPENSE-THRILLER / THINKING MAN’S THRILLER / SATURDAY NIGHT GOOSEBUMPS
Film Cousins: “Fatal Attraction” (1987); “No Way Out” (1987); “A Perfect Murder” (1998); “The Hoax” (2006).