ARBITRAGE – The Review
The shelf life of a Hollywood leading men can sometimes be quite short. When the A-list scripts or name directors cease to call ( or return calls ) many leading men have turned to television (especially now with the quirky shows on basic cable and premium channels ). Some actors will turn to smaller supporting or character roles: the gruff father or grumpy grandpa’ parts. And then there’s Richard Gere. He emerged as a major heart-throb in the late 70′s with splashy performances in BLOOD BROTHERS and LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR. Of course, posters of him in AMERICAN GIGOLO adorned many a bedroom wall in the early 80′s. Even then he balanced these main stream flicks with quirkier fare like DAYS OF HEAVEN. Through the next decades he cemented his box office status with romantic roles in box office smashes such as AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and PRETTY WOMAN. But Gere seems more eager now than ever to take a chance, whether learning tap for CHICAGO or playing a real life fraud, Clifford Irving, in HOAX. Now he’s parlaying his still considerable charms ( making that silver mane look good! ) as a character loosely based on recent, shady Wall Street-types in the dramatic thriller ARBITRAGE. And this time out, Gere just may finally take that gold statuette home.
In ARBITRAGE Gere plays Robert Miller, one of the so-called ” masters of the universe “. You can imagine him downing a scotch with Gordon Gekko at a swank private club. But, not as the film opens. Miller’s private jet touches down after a fruitless business meeting. He’s immediately transported via limo to the plush NYC digs he shares with his gorgeous socialite wife of many years, Ellen ( Susan Sarandon ). Ellen’s put together a birthday party for him with his son ( and wife, and grandkids ) and business partner daughter Brooke ( Brit Marling ) in attendance. Rushing out early ( ” Gotta’ stop by the office” ), Robert dashes to meet his mistress, up-and-coming artist Julie ( Laetita Casta ). She’s frustrated that he spends so little time with her, while he insists he’ll be at her big gallery opening tomorrow night. When he really goes into the office the next morning, things are not as rosy as the media believes. Miller has borrowed millions from a colleague so that his hedge fund company will look more attractive for a potential buyer. Robert’s itching to cash in and retire, while Brooke knows nothing of the loan. That night, after the gallery reception, Robert whisks Julie away for a relaxing country weekend upstate. Tragedy strikes. Robert calls on Jimmy Grant ( Nate Parker ), the son of his deceased driver, to help him out. Police detective Michael Bryer ( Tim Roth ) investigates the incident and becomes aware of Grant’s involvement. Will Grant expose Robert before he can sell his firm and hide his secrets from his family?
ARBITRAGE is almost two films. One is the police investigation led by Roth’s character. His dogged detective is almost the Columbo of the occupy movement. He wants Robert Miller, that slick one-percenter, in the slammer, pronto. Parker brings a lot of intensity to this young man caught between two worlds. Will he crack? Roth does a serviceable street accent, but this plot seems too similar to stories on any of the ” Law and Order ” TV spin-offs. What’s really interesting is the story of financial deception. It’s a bit flashier here than in last year’s MARGIN CALL and the WALL STREET flicks. The Millers must constantly put on a show for the public, so that no one will know that he and his company are barely treading water. The macho posturing of buyer and selling is on full display along with veiled threats and passive/aggressive behaviors. Every phone call or text may be a another deadly attack. Can the accountants keep quiet will the feds are sniffing about? These fellas may look civilized, but they’re really sharks, waiting for that first hint of blood.
And Gere’s Robert Miller is the smoothest, deadliest shark of the bunch. This guy’s done a lot of rotten things, but somewhat Gere has us rooting for him. He lets us see the confusion on his face as Robert struggles to keep all the lies from strangling his brain. This is stand-out work from an actor who keeps surprising us. But he also helps his co-stars shine. Marling was quite an indie smash in last year’s ANOTHER EARTH, and here she jumps into the big leagues with a terrific duet with Gere in a powerful father and daughter confrontation on a bench in Central Park. She’s very strong in this role as is Sarandon as her, apparently clueless, mother. This woman who runs the house staff and arranges charity events proves her own strength as she also confronts Robert late in the film. Being a big fan of TV’s ” The Rockford Files “, I was so pleased to see Stuart Margolin in a quietly scene stealing role as Robert’s long time attorney ( ” I can’t hear this.”, as he exits the limo ). Way to go ” Angel”! ARBITAGE is an involving look at the lies and secrets that are part of the business scandals that make up so many news headlines. And it’s a showcase for Gere. In his fifth decade as a film star, he’s doing some of his best work ever. Turns out that dreamboat poster guy is still quite an actor.
4 Out of 5 Stars