Story highlightsRichard Gere stars as a fraudulent financier in the filmCritic says Gere’s performance is “a thing of toxic beauty”The movie also stars Susan Sarandon and Laetitia Casta
It’s instructive to note what a killer actor Richard Gere can be when a movie rises to his level.
Gere’s performance in “Arbitrage” is too good to ignore. Watch him in the scene when Sarandon — in full, feisty flower — hits Robert with a lifetime of resentments. Good job on that, since he’s just lost $400 million in a bad copper-mine investment, and if he can’t cover it up and unload his company on a major bank, his career will go kaput along with his fortune. His rapt, watchful performance is a thing of toxic beauty. Gere digs so deep into this flawed tycoon that we come to understand Robert’s actions without for a minute forgiving them. For proof that we’re in financial hell, look around. It’s an implosive tour de force.
Gere’s Robert Miller is the picture of unflappable elegance. Fraud puts pressure on Robert’s skill at deceiving wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon), French mistress Julie (Laetitia Casta) and chief accountant Brooke (Brit Marling), who also happens to be his daughter. As the son of two commodities traders, Jarecki has Wall Street in his DNA. And Gere nails every nuance in a role that holds up a dark mirror to the way we live now. No Academy love, not even for his sinister brilliance in “Internal Affairs,” “American Gigolo” and “The Hoax,” or for the battered heart he brought to the cheated-on husband in “Unfaithful.”
“Arbitrage” is such a movie, a sinfully entertaining look at the sins committed in the name of money. She can’t rock his composure. Despite his box-office success in crowd-pleasers such as “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Pretty Woman” and “Chicago,” Gere has long been underrated. But Robert keeps his cool until the sudden death of one of these women has him dodging a possible murder rap with the grudging help of Jimmy Grant (a terrific Nate Parker), the son of the family chauffeur and the only black man in Robert’s circle of white privilege. At 62, he is at the peak of his powers. True, this territory has been covered from Wall Street to last year’s “Margin Call.” But Gere and first-time director Nicholas Jarecki put a tantalizing spin on what goes on in the head of a fraudulent hedge-fund manager when he decides to stick it to the rest of us, including his own family.
There’s enough plot here to stuff a miniseries or three, yet “Arbitrage” never descends to bland and predictable. And Gere knows the man, inside and out. Credit Jarecki, whose combustible directing debut gives “Arbitrage” the charge of a thriller and the provocation of a moral fable. Jarecki has an eye for the telling detail, not surprising given his start with the 2005 documentary “The Outsider” (about rogue director James Toback). That’s when NYPD detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) smells a rat and Robert’s world begins to unravel.
Jarecki knows the territory. But Gere gives us a window into the soul of a man who finally realizes that even money will no longer help him lie to himself. And it resonates in his exceptional screenplay, which potently captures the gleaming seduction of Robert’s world and the fear that festers underneath.. And the glamour in his field of vision — cheers to cinematographer Yorick Le Saux (I Am Love) for the sheen and composer Cliff Martinez (Drive) for the seductive mood — is tempting enough to make us all complicit.
Like the best movies, “Arbitrage” persuades us to ask tough questions about ourselves. Docs run in the Jarecki family, with half brothers Andrew (“Capturing the Friedmans”) and Eugene (“Why We Fight”) making notable contributions to the genre. Wearing the trappings of wealth like a second skin, Gere invites us to see what Robert sees
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