A strong central performance by Richard Gere capably anchors the low key Arbitrage, a thriller about a billionaire that finds himself in a somewhat tricky situation.
Gere plays Robert Miller, an unapologetically super-rich hedge fund magnate who is about to sell his company. His daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling) who is Chief Investment Officer at the company, doesn’t understand why he’s letting go of their super-profitable family business. As it turns out, Robert has been cooking the books somewhat, and he’s on edge, worried that he’ll be discovered before the sale goes through. When he’s embroiled in a car accident, things go from bad to worse, and he soon has a detective (Tim Roth) on his tail.
The narrative is a tough sell, since we’re put in the shoes of a man breaking all the laws, yet we’re asked to sympathise with him. It’s difficult to reconcile to a certain extent, but if you view the film as a morality tale then you may feel a little more comfortable. In this sense, it reminds me of Hitchcock’s famous techniques of making us feel for the wrongdoer, particularly in the first acts of Psycho or Marnie.
Arbitrage never gets boring. Whilst this isn’t an edge-of-your-seat type thriller, the film doesn’t drag, and new characters, such as Roth’s detective, are introduced skilfully and without threatening the narrative momentum. Brit Marling is of course one of the stand out performers, and whilst she only features in half a dozen scenes, her character forms an integral part of the story. Thus, she has to do a lot of the heavy lifting, and handles such scenes as capably as we’ve come to expect from her work in Another Earth and Sound of My Voice. Susan Sarandon gets even fewer scenes to sink her teeth into, though she’s always a welcome addition to any feature. Tim Roth’s bitter and world weary detective is a bit of a cliché, though his hatred for the 1 percenters is equal parts amusing and gauche.
At the end of the day, this is a slickly made low key thriller that keeps one glued to the screen from beginning to end, however it isn’t something that would warrant repeat viewings. Cliff Martinez, known for Drive and Traffic, has crafted a score that perfectly complements the narrative and keeps the intrigue flowing, whilst the cinematography is nothing to sneeze at. The Blu-ray presentation is good with occasional graininess visible in some of the darker scenes, and there is a slim selection of interviews and behind the scenes footage. The most interesting snippets include writer/director Nicholas Jarecki explaining how he grew up surrounded by the financial industry – he knew the ‘texture’ of money, as he so eloquently puts it – and the fact that Marling herself has a bachelor’s degree in economics and was once offered a job with Goldman Sachs.
Arbitrage mightn’t rank up there with Gere’s best work, or indeed the sub-genre of financial thrillers, but it gets the job done.
Arbitrage is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Madman.Rating: