BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Friday, September 14, 2012
9/14/12 at 4:27 AM
"Arbitrage" is not about greed or frustration or police corruption. It's not about family bonds or loyalty or racial discrimination.
But all those elements are incorporated into this multi-layered, suspense-laden film.
Richard Gere stars as Robert Miller, a hedge fund magnate whose greed led him to lose hundreds of millions. To save himself and sell the company before his troubles become known, he resorts to fraud.
In the midst of trying to close the deal of his life, Gere's character is also trying to keep his mistress (French actress Laetitia Casta) happy. As they hit the road for a trip, Miller gets the pair into an accident, and the mistress dies.
He begins to dial 911, but he reconsiders and instead abandons the scene of the accident in the hopes that investigators might think that his mistress was alone in her car. From a payphone, he calls Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker) the son of one of his longtime employees, for help.
Miller's plan was carefully designed to eliminate any evidence linking him or Jimmy to the accident, but detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) catches on anyway and decides he's going to put Miller in jail for the crime no matter what he has to do.
On the business front, Miller's daughter, played by Brit Marling, finds out about the company's troubles, and the potential buyer engages in some underhanded pressure of his own to try to negotiate a better price.
Although there's a good amount of business talk in this movie, it never gets annoyingly complex, and even the least business-savvy among us will glean enough to stay on top of the story.
Writer and director Nicholas Jarecki, (whose previous work includes the documentary "The Outsider" and the screenplay for "The Informers") has put together a wonderfully balanced film. Viewers will never feel overwhelmed as the numerous psychological elements play out, nor will they feel torn from one storyline to the next.
The production of the film strikes the perfect tone. Tight shots, dark scenes and a slow, intense score by composer Cliff Martinez ("Contagion" and "Drive") will captivate audiences as they try to cling to every word exchanged in the numerous tense one-on-one scenes.
And, finally, the acting talent in this movie is phenomenal.
Gere portrays his conflicted character with the exact depth the role requires. He's the perfect worried, brooding businessman. The character's intelligence and shrewdness practically pop out of the screen, yet you can still believe that he's also a loving family man who adores his grandchildren. His charm may leave some viewers actually rooting for his character to get away with everything.
Parker (a University of Oklahoma grad) delivers a strong performance as an ex-convict trying to put his life back together who's struggling with his feeling of indebtedness to Gere, who helped him after his father died. A particularly strong scene involves Parker and Roth as the detective tries to get Jimmy to confess by telling him that Miller doesn't truly care about him.
Marling also captures the nuances of her character well, as the loving daughter who has to decide whether to continue the charade once she realizes that her father is not who she thought he was.
And despite the little screen-time she gets, Susan Sarandon nails the scenes that portray her as Miller's knows-more-than-she-lets-on wife.
The final scene doesn't wrap things up as cleanly as most films do, which works just fine, symbolizing yet another aspect of the messiness that is life.
Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Brit Marling
Theater: Circle Cinema
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for language, brief violent images and drug use)
Quality: (on a scale of zero to four stars)
Original Print Headline: Gere delivers depth in gripping tale
Nour Habib 918-581-8369
Richard Gere stars as a hedge fund magnate in "Arbitrage." MYLES ARONOWITZ/Roadside Attractions