“Arbitrage” casts Richard Gere as a corporate tycoon whose greed and amoral behavior have him in a serious bind.
What, another Hollywood tale of a crooked businessman? Haven’t we seen this all before?
Stick around. Not only is “Arbitrage” one of the year’s most compelling films, it doesn’t stop the story cold to pound its fists with Occupy-style fury. Gere’s character is no saint, to be sure, but he’s given a sense of humanity and vigor that makes “Arbitrage,” out now on Blu-ray and DVD, much more than another corporate raider rant.
Gere plays Robert Miller, a hedge fund magnate with every societal perk at his disposal. He lives lavishly, has a beautiful family and enjoys the respect of his peers.
It’s a pretty good scam. Robert has an exotic girlfriend (Laetitia Casta) on the side, and his business is teetering on disaster thanks to a very large fiscal faux pas. His book cooking mastery still may let him sell the company without getting burned.
His situation sours when he dozes off while driving his arm candy to a romantic getaway. She dies in the crash, but rather than reveal his infidelity as well as his culpability in her death he flees the scene. After all, having his name splashed across the media will surely wreck any business deal he can strike. And every minute counts as his financial options keep dwindling.
It’s clear Robert is a villain, but Gere makes it hard for us to despise him. The actor, in his cagiest performance in ages, plays up Robert’s alpha male attributes. He’s a charmer of the highest order who still has a flicker of decency within his shriveled soul.
Tim Roth plays the detective haunting Robert at every turn, a complicated figure handled beautifully by first time writer/director Nicholas Jarecki.
“Arbitrage” squanders Susan Sarandon as Robert’s loyal spouse, and a subplot involving their daughter (Brit Marling) isn’t as juicy as one hopes. Still, Gere’s sterling work and flawless pacing make it 2012’s least heralded gem.
The Blu-ray extras include “Who Is Robert Miller,” a featurette letting the cast explain why the main character captivates regardless of his behavior.
“[Robert] is someone I wanted to identify with, I wanted to understand,” Jarecki says.
One secret to the film’s success is uncovered in a second extra, “A Glimpse into ‘Arbitrage,” where Jarecki reveals that his parents once worked as traders. That insight imprints on the story and the director’s approach. It also may have prevented him from embracing lazy anti-corporate swipes during the production.