This slick high-finance thriller is the perfect vehicle for Richard Gere. The role is no stretch for the silver-maned actor, and so many years after he put Armani for men on the map in “American Gigolo,” he still cuts quite a dashing figure in a well-tailored suit — de rigueur accouterment for the role he plays in this.
On the eve of his 60th birthday, Richard Miller (Gere), the head of his own investment company, has everything: a loving wife, Ellen (Susan Sarandon); a whip-smart daughter, Brooke (newcomer Brit Marling), who serves as the firm’s chief financial officer; and the usual trappings of a very wealthy man, including a mistress, Julie (French actress Laetetia Casta), the owner of an art gallery he has invested in.
Richard is also in the midst of selling his company and as we learn, he needs to transact the deal quickly to avoid anyone uncovering a $412 million shortfall he’s cooked into the books. The buyer, a Mr. Mayfield (Graydon Carter, better known as editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair magazine), is moving at an overly methodical pace while, with each day that passes, Richard sweats the discovery of his misdeed.The last thing he needs is a headline-screaming scandal to squelch the deal, and when he gets caught up in fine mess with criminal implications unrelated to the missing money, he turns to an old friend’s son, Jimmy (Nate Parker), to help him cover it up, but a relentless NYPD detective (Tim Roth) is on to him.
Nichoas Jarecki directs what is a fast-paced, tight thriller that is in many ways predictable but still manages to maintain an air of suspense. As the noose tightens around Richard’s neck, you might think you know how it will end, but there are a few twists.Gere is spot on as the ethically compromised billionaire who, over the course of several days, finds himself as chief firefighter in charge of putting out the multitudes of hot spots that keep igniting in his life. The character is imbued with enough ambiguousness to leave you wondering if he is a good guy caught up in something he can’t control, or just another Bernie Madoff-type bad guy with a rotten moral core. Honestly, he’s a bit of both, but Jarecki seems to let us draw our own conclusions.
This is a compelling piece that offers a look at the very, very rich — and one of its more interesting components is the relationship that Richard has with Jimmy. For most of the film, his fate is in Jimmy’s hands and yet he treats him as a subordinate. The irony is hard to escape — Jimmy, a Harlem-born reformed juvenile delinquent, has a stronger moral code than Richard.
Shot in and around New York with familiar cityscapes such as Central Park used in the settings, the film has crisp, understated production values. A strong supporting cast features Stuart Margolin as Richard’s attorney, who becomes his confidante out of necessity, and Bruce Altman as the auditor compromised in Richard’s scheme.
Sarandon and Marling are not given as much to do, but what’s there is first rate. Higher praise goes to Roth as a the dogged detective determined to smoke out his suspect whatever it takes and Parker, a young actor who holds his own with Gere in every scene.“Arbitrage” is just the kind of classic Gere film you have come to expect. While it doesn’t stretch his range beyond his comfort level, he plays the character to the hilt, and it’s one you’ve seen him play many times.