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Arbitrage is one of the rarest thrillers around today a morality tale
that propels its gripping story through poor character choices and the
ensuing aftermath rather than left-field twists and pointless action.
The complexity of the characters on display in director Nicolas
Jarecki's feature debut (and the fine actors who bring them to life)
are fascinating to behold and deliciously infuriating in the way that
the script forces you to rationalize on their behalf, even when they
perpetrate some of the worst crimes imaginable.
The plot of Arbitrage is at its core very basic, but from that seemingly simplistic foundation springs forth a disastrous series of errors of near Shakespearian proportion, ultimately avoidable as they all turn out to be. We first meet with hedge fund manager Robert Miller as he hounds his subordinate to track down the CEO of a rival corporation for a final authorizing signature that will conclude the sale of his firm. Unbeknownst to everyone but him and his accountant, Miller has committed fraud and cooked the books to hide a disastrous investment in a Russian copper operation. Through this sale he can more than cover his losses and retire a multi-millionaire, but after another mistake (this time on a far more personal level) his transgressions at work pale in comparison.
It is through Gere's remarkable performance that we come to sympathize with a man who is not only a liar and a fraud that uses those he loves and dispose of those he needs without a second thought, but who also descends into something far worse: a murderer (at least in the eyes of the law). However, we can see deep down he loves his family, will right all financial wrongs with the sale of his business without anyone being hurt and mostly had non-malicious intentions when fleeing the scene of his crime. We become so caught up in this character's predicament and the world in which he thrives is so equally callous and ugly he comes off as part saint despite being everything an average person despises he is the one percent and essentially rides above the law.
Having given up his mantle of A-list leading man some time ago, Gere, instead of rushing headfirst into subpar roles that would keep him somewhat in the spotlight, has become a superb actor in his own right choosing interesting projects from The Hoax to The Hunting Party. His performance in Arbitrage is perhaps his best work ever, exuding charisma, spewing malice and emanating explosive energy at the perfect junctures. Jarecki's script and Gere's work is the perfect marriage of actor and material.
The supporting cast is equally superb. Susan Sarandon does a great deal with limited screen time as Robert's wife, as does Brit Marling as his daughter and unofficial partner at the firm. Tim Roth does his evil thing without missing a beat as a determined and justice-blurring cop (though his accent slips a few times) and relative unknown Nate Parker as a past connection of Robert's who plays an pivotal (and emotionally potent) role in the deception does scene-stealing work.
Conjointly as is the case with ludicrous revelations and senseless violence, in most thrillers a last-act imposition occurs, stripping any good will that may have been awarded and leaving nothing but a sour taste. Arbitrage has a perfect perfect ending and is immediately preceded with two fascinating examinations of character in both Miller's wife and the buyer of his firm. The overarching theme amongst these catharses is that money rules all, but the execution and timing of both comes off as nothing close to hollow.
It is easy to fathom certain viewers being bored or put off by the deliberate pacing and stylistic choices Arbitrage makes, but that is no fault of this tense and involving film but rather of the spoiled, ADD generation that can't make it through 100 minutes of cinema without multiple shootouts, riveting as it all is. As the antidote to bland Hollywood white-knuckle escapism, Arbitrage is the sublime archetype, substantive and lasting and proving that smarts and dedicated performers can drive a compelling narrative.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm a sucker for a good adultery thriller, just like the classic ones
from the 80's, and this one doesn't disappoint. The premise here is
pretty familiar: rich New York tycoon is having an affair with a
younger woman, he has business troubles and then his dalliance goes
horribly wrong at the worst possible time. The plot, especially, the
corporate shenanigans, can stretch credibility, but the film is
sufficiently well written that the holes in the storyline don't really
get in the way.
What distinguishes Arbitrage is the superb acting. Susan Sarandon is, as always, right in character as the society wife who knows more than you think, but in the end has her own set of priorities. Britt Marling plays the daughter who aspires to build her own career only to be forced to confront disillusionment in the "real world" and make some tough choices. Richard Gere, as Robert Miller, is the epitome of a Wall Street "master of the universe" whose finely balanced life is on the verge of collapse. Much has been written about the psychology of self-destruction that leads someone in power (almost invariably male) to risk so much for so little. Gere captures that mindset beautifully. Nate Parker is the black kid, whose father has a history with the family, and whom Miller shamelessly embroils in the mess that he has created. Parker gives a great performance. Finally, Tim Roth is outstanding as the NYPD detective who is sick and tired of the big Wall Street guys escaping justice and is desperate to nail Gere - too desperate as it turns out.
Arbitrage is slick, American filmmaking that delivers on what it promises. No more, but no less.
Greetings again from the darkness. Most of us don't tread in the world
of corporate greed, deceit and fraud that defines the now four years
ago financial crisis. Twenty five years ago Gordon Gekko in Wall Street
put a face to corporate greed. Writer/Director Nicholas Jarecki now
gives us Robert Miller, as portrayed by Richard Gere, for the face of
Wall Street fraud ... the step beyond greed that Bernie Madoff made
famous. Toss in a Chappaquiddick-type tragedy and it's abundantly clear
that Robert Miller is no modern day saint.
No matter how much we would prefer it to be otherwise, there is something to the charisma and emotional power of the few who seize control as politicians, CEO's and cult leaders ... all subjects of recent films. During this film, we never once doubt that Gere's Miller is a scam artist with power. He is not a good guy, despite his warm smile as he says all the right things to his family and close circle of advisors. We are sickened that he is able to fool so many. Yet, the reason this story is so familiar is that it rings so true.
Watching Miller's house of cards slowly crumble is both fascinating and nerve-racking. We aren't rooting for him, but we still get caught up in his web of deceit. His demented sense of "responsibilities" guide him down the path of betrayal ... a path that stomps on his all-knowing wife, his ultra-trusting daughter, his sensitive mistress, and a young guy just trying to get his life in order.
The supporting cast is strong led by Susan Sarandon as the wife, Brit Marling (Another Earth) as the daughter, and Tim Roth as the crusty NY Detective trying to catch the big fish. However, this is Gere's film and he delivers his best in years. It's also great to see Stuart Margolin, who was so entertaining as Angel in The Rockford Files back in the 70's. Another interesting casting choice has long time "Vanity Fair" editor Graydon Carter as the head of the financial institution looking to purchase Miller's company.
Again, the individual pieces of the story are all quite familiar, but filmmaker Jarecki does a nice job of assembling the pieces in a manner that keep us engaged. It's a nice example of how the rules are different for the rich, and show how the worst of them even think they can get away with murder! (www.MovieReviewsFromTheDark.wordpress.com)
We're just now starting to get into the meat of the "awards films" for
2012, but the year has already presented several pictures that deserve
significant acclaim. One of those films is Arbitrage, from first-time
feature director Nicholas Jarecki. Jarecki's small resume up to this
point was a little questionable, his only previous feature writing
credit being the hollow adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' The Informers,
but here he writes and directs with a skill that he had not been able
to come close to demonstrating to this point. He displays real
potential as an emerging filmmaker, taking on the timely story of a
hedge fund magnate whose bad karma comes full circle as several errors
start to come crashing down on him all at once.
Taking on the central role of Robert Miller is Richard Gere, with the silver fox utilizing all of the charm and likability that he made his career on and giving a performance that I dare say is the finest of his decades long career. This is the kind of performance that an actor of his age dreams of giving, a feat worthy of the accolades that this season runs rampant with, as he gives this character the depth that the story demands. Arbitrage could have easily fallen into the open potential to attack the 1%, beating the horse into the ground with every drop of "look how horrible you are" aggression that this country is brimming with in its current economic state, but instead Jarecki and Gere take on the more challenging approach of portraying Miller as a real human being.
This isn't a guy who is doing the wrong things and laughing his greedy way to the top. He knows that he is making mistakes and hurting people, but he truly believes that the ends justify the means and that makes it all even more disturbing when you see him try to explain his actions as his world comes crumbling down. A majorly profitable business deal coincides with an accident involving his extra-marital lover, and all of the selfish deeds that Miller has been profiting from personally and financially are threatening to come into the light.
As the efforts of his intelligent business partner daughter (the wise and daggered Brit Marling) and the detective investigating the death of his lover (the dogged and determined Tim Roth) begin to weigh on his nerves, Miller begins a desperate scramble to piece his life together before he has to pay the price for his misconduct. Jarecki's direction sizzles off the screen, pacing his film with remarkable ease and fluidity from one moment to the next. There's never a scene that feels out of place or unnecessary, a rare gift for a film, especially one coming from a first timer.
Gere's phenomenal performance takes center stage in all of its surprising humanity and towering intimidation, but everyone in the cast is able to shine from one moment to the next. Roth and Marling excel, as does Susan Sarandon as Miller's wife and special attention must be given to Nate Parker, who portrays the son of a former associate of Miller's who he turns to when he needs a favor. Parker's character is the ultimate representation of the kind of pain that Miller's selfish actions can cause the innocent people he never thinks twice about, and the performance from Parker reflects that suffering in a remarkably effective manner. In a film loaded with the corrupt and greedy, Parker portrays one of the few genuinely good-hearted souls and seeing the needless anguish that Miller's selfishness places upon him is absolutely tragic thanks to his performance.
Jarecki's Arbitrage never takes the easy way out in condemning its central figure, but builds him as a fully-fleshed human being who is portrayed with great precision by an actor who has long gone underrated. It's a shame that Gere likely won't be getting much awards attention for this performance, because he more than deserves to hear his name called on Oscar nomination morning. Still, awards aren't the ultimate justification of quality in film and his work here, along with the film overall, stands as a bright point in a long career and an impressive year in film so far.
It had been a while since I had either seen Richard Gere, Susan
Sarandon or Tim Roth in anything noteworthy but to my own surprise,
this was being a solid thriller, with truly some great performances by
It is absolutely true that without its cast this would had been a very formulaic, standard, average, little thriller. As a matter of fact, it more feels like an extended "Law & Order" episode. The characters and developments aren't anything surprising but the movie truly gets made interesting by its cast, who also help to make this a convincing and effective thriller.
I have never even been a too big fan of Richard Gere but he simply was absolutely great in this! He mostly carries this entire movie and he does this by playing a sort of despicable character. So it's a real accomplishment by him that he still managed to turn the main character into a still likable enough one, that you never lost interest in. He doesn't make the right choices throughout the movie but that's what keeps his character interesting and helps to let the movie move along, even during its slower moments.
It's the sort of thriller in which everything starts to go from bad to worse for its main character, when his lies and actions only get him in more and deeper problems and drags those close to him down, along with him.
But really, it remains a far from perfect thriller and still does plenty of things wrong. It does a poor job at handling some of its characters for instance. For example, it heavily under uses the Susan Sarandon character, who could had given the movie a whole other dimension and some more depth with her character. After all, she plays the main character's wife, who has certain knowledge about things that don't come into play until very late into the movie, when things are already starting to wrap up. The whole dynamic between her and the Gere character had much more potential really and I thought it was a real shame this didn't get explored any further and better. Also, I would had loved to have seen more of Susan Sarandon, since she gave away a great performance.
That's a bit of a problem with this entire movie; it just doesn't know how to handle and what to do with certain characters. The Tim Roth character also definitely feels a bit underused. When he shows up you think he is going to play a big and important role for this movie but in fact there are large portions of the movie in which his character plays no role at all. I absolutely loved his scene with Richard Gere and I was hoping for more moments like that, which unfortunately just never came.
I still really enjoyed this thriller and at times was even loving it. It's definitely a better than average genre attempt, despite still having a very standard and familiar type of premise and story in it. So in essence, nothing surprising but it's all still very well made and acted out by its impressive cast, which already is worth the price alone.
I read an interview with Richard Gere about this movie and saw that
Susan Sarandon was in the same movie too and thought, "This has to be a
good one..." It is OK, but its definitely not great. There is a lot of
dramatic tension, but it seems like the script was dumbed down for the
Hollywood mass market. Totally understand the rationale of the
approach, but I think that, as a result, the movie fell short of being
When the English do this kind of movie, or the Europeans, what you get is dark tragic theatre. When the Americans try to do it, I think that they end up doing too much test marketing and as a result the movie suffers.
With the really serious depth of talent in the cast, you would have to think that there was much more that could have been put on the screen (and may have been on the cutting room floor for all I know).
There is one redeeming feature though. This movie does reveal a darkness, and offers a comment on the culture of today, of capitalism, of markets, of law etc... It doesn't pull any punches in that regard and that is a really good thing!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The enjoyable thriller Arbitrage seems to promise a Margin-Call-like
reminder of the dangerous Madoff-like gambling and ponziing in stock
trading. It is much less than that, but in its own way it draws you in
to a world of high finance where this time the people affected play a
much larger part than computers and manipulative moguls.
Arbitrage is all about family and allegiances and the flawed decisions made partly on their behalf. Robert Miller (Richard Gere, a fortunate replacement for Al Pacino) has borrowed over $400 million for his company and must give it back at the awkward time of negotiating the company's sale, which depends on that money to be a part of the company's value. Negotiating for that sale is the most fun and maybe most original part of an otherwise clichéd script, where most of the action can be foreseen.
Few actors can carry the silver-tongued, silver fox better these days than Gere, whose toned body and outrageously full hair complement the slippery billionaire who is always minutes away from financial ruin and family disintegration.
While that tension is formulaic, writer/director Nicholas Jarecki does a couple of plot twists that are not predictable, therefore defending the film against derivative charges (pun intended). Plus, the first-rate supporting cast of Susan Sarandon (Miller's wife), Brit Marling (his daughter), and Tim Roth (the nosey detective) give enough pleasure to keep Arbitrage from being a retread of Wall-Street type films.
The subplot of Miller's affair with young artist Julie (Laetetia Costa) is distractingly hackneyed except as a metaphoric reminder of how he plays on the edge of jeopardizing business and family. That affair and his business bad habits form a composite of a hundred doomed big shots who think they can fool very smart wives and savvy business associates, much less canny detectives. Ask Bernie Madoff.
"What's your price?" The question haunts Richard Gere's character of
Robert Miller, a vain hedge fund manager married to Ellen (Susan
Sarandon) and preparing to hand down his business dynasty to his
daughter Brooke (Brit Marling). That is, until a freak accident with
his mistress coincides with a self-perpetrating fraud scandal. Now
confronted with unprecedented stress, Miller has to fight to keep his
family and business intact.
Richard Gere's absence on the Oscar nomination stage for the entirety of his career will hopefully be ended with this stunning character study. Gere is in perfect form, personifying a complicated man who for once sees the results of his narcissistic actions. While his empire crumbles, his personal life goes the same way. Every scene Gere is in brings to light just how powerful an actor he is.
But an actor would be nothing without a powerful script. The author of the film's screenplay is also the film's director, Nicholas Jarecki, the co-author of the 2009 film adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis film "The Informers". In his largest film yet, Jarecki keeps with themes of arrogance that comes with power. The script moves at a brisk pace, keeping your attention and leaving you nearly breathless once you've reached the conclusion.
Cinematography and setting blend easily into the background of these character's actions. New York City is brought to live, as she has countless times before, as the epicenter and culmination of the good and the bad. But what sets the screen apart from any other NYC-set film is the fact that nothing seems to be done to make NYC any more like NYC. The film's version of the city is exactly how it is in real life.
Susan Sarandon, still as beautiful as ever, steals her scenes as Miller's powerful wife. As does Brit Marling and especially Nate Parker, newcomers full of promise. The sole weak spot is, surprisingly, the performance of Tim Roth, the detective. His character starts the film with a Brooklyn-type accent. In his second scene Roth seems to attain his native Cockney accent, then lose it as the film progresses. He ends with a bizarre jumble of both.
"Arbitrage" is an intelligent, engaging thriller about the depths of bad decisions made from the arrogance of power. It is a must-see of the 2012 film season.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Arbitrage did a decent job of setting up the characters, and progressing through all the scenario's, until the end when it leaves you feel like you've been left hanging. I get it, the reasons why everyone did what they did, and said what they said (i.e. wife, new owner, daughter, etc.) but the movie somehow left me with a feeling of incompleteness. I would've rather the cop had barged into the awards dinner, with all his peers there. and placed handcuffs on the main character, placing him under arrest as he stood at the podium. accepting his award. Sure, it could've left us wondering what evidence was uncovered, or manufactured, but if I'm going to be left hanging, I'd rather be left hanging there. Some of the things he was involved in and overcame, were plausible, but as a whole, not so much. If you like 'far fetched' plots, you will enjoy watching Arbitrage, at least until the last few minutes of the movie, which is anti climactic. Surely, we're not suppose to believe he signed the legal document his wife sprung on him, essentially submitting to her blackmail. After all the things he was previously able to wiggle out of, he couldn't somehow wiggle out of that? Or, maybe we are expected to believe it was his wife who he succumbed to, in the end. In that case, he would not, could not, be the 'all powerful' which the movie attempts to personify. Obviously, the writers wanted him to somehow be cut down, but I would've preferred the handcuff disgrace, rather than what we are expected to believe his wife had accomplished. Maybe his being arrested would've given the perception that he didn't sign it, and to the contrary, he wasn't arrested, so we can assume he did sign it. I guess we can assume his wife didn't know that he had taken care of both of their children, in the deal. I'm not sure just what we are expected to assume. When Sarandon was kissed on the forehead by Gere as he stood up to accept his award, her expression was all we were given, and it gave little indication of who capitulated. All I'm saying is to be prepared for a let down. Sorry, but this movie was incomplete for me. Too bad, because the acting wasn't bad.
It seems quite a letdown that Richard Gere's impressive performance in
this handsomely mounted 2012 thriller has been relegated to On Demand,
but the same fate befell 2011's "Margin Call", another effectively
Machiavellian Wall Street-set thriller, probably because the mechanics
of cutting big financial deals just doesn't feel all that cinematic
despite being terrific showcases for able actors. With his trademark
élan in check, he plays Robert Miller, a billionaire Wall Street
investment executive whose silken imperturbable manner can charm and
kill at the same time. Miller's company is in the middle of a federal
audit as he tries to sell it. The problem is that he has illegally
borrowed more than $400 million, well beyond the true value of the
company. The lender threatens to take his money back, but Miller stops
at nothing to keep the fraud under wraps, his family and the IRS in the
dark, and his firm functioning more or less as usual.
Miller is simply unflappable no matter what the circumstance is, whether it's negotiating an unethical high financial deal, attending his 60th- birthday party, or spending a few tempestuous hours with his mistress, a French art gallery owner whose neediness makes Miller vulnerable to a moment of truth he cannot control. An unexpected event literally leaves blood on his hands, and a web of deception drops him further into an abyss. Instead of seeking absolution, Miller moves from chilly manipulation to unrepentant criminality. The evolution feels seamless because Miller never sees anything wrong with what he does, and first- time director Nicholas Jarecki does quite a capable job of maintaining the pace and momentum of an internally driven thriller that allows the main character to unravel in a series of dialogue-heavy scenes courtesy of Jarecki's insightful screenplay, an excellent sophomore effort (his first was co-writing 2008's "The Informers" with Bret Easton Ellis).
Although he was a last-minute replacement for Al Pacino (who would have brought an earthier dimension to the role), Gere is smartly cast here because his screen persona has often provided a glacial veneer over a seething core of anger and resentment. Playing Miller allows him to do just that in a most arresting manner that makes him both morally repellent but oddly sympathetic. As the detective intent on getting Miller convicted, Tim Roth is quite effective down to the Columbo-like inquisitiveness and Jersey Shore accent. Nate Parker brings unexpected depth as the moral center of the story, a Harlem kid whom Miller previously helped out of a jam but who now faces much bigger consequences returning the favor. Indie breakout Brit Marling ("Another Earth") affectingly plays Miller's sharply analytical daughter, the chief accountant of his firm who slowly realizes her father's true nature. Susan Sarandon has relatively few scenes as Miller's insulated wife Ellen, but her steely intelligence comes through in the climax. It's worth seeking out.
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