Saturday, April 13, 2013

Arbitrage (2012)


Billionaire Robert Miller (Richard Gere) has built a successful trading company and watched it flourish. He has his brilliant daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) working beside him and his lovely wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) handling the company's philanthropic work. Now Robert is in danger of having fraudulent business practices exposed and is anxious to sell his corporation before that happens. Then a tragic turn in his personal life puts him at the center of a criminal investigation.



I was a lot more impressed with this movie than I'd expected to be. Richard Gere was the penultimate cinematic crush of my adolescence. My best friend and I spent a lot of time at the theater around the time American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman were released. And as a tired, aging very young and cool 46-year-old, I am happy to see that, at 63, the man can still rock an illicit sex scene. Susan Sarandon is still looking smoking hot these days too. But I digress. Over the years, Gere's performances have been hit or miss for me. But when he's at the top of his game, he's quite good, and this is one of the best performances I've seen from him.

I found Robert Miller to be a despicable character. As a businessman, he has questionable scruples -- he's also a narcissist and an unrepentant adulterer -- and I found his reactions to certain events disconcertingly cold. Even when he's expressing his love for his children, the tenderest part of almost anyone's life, his words seem too glib and polished. I wasn't worried about the prospect of his downfall -- I was looking forward to seeing the gods smite this man for his hubris. :-)


However, Gere portrayed him as a morally complex individual, with moments of genuine tenderness, fear, grief, and regret. I didn't particularly like this character, but I couldn't dismiss him either. And I didn't want to look away.

Furthermore, the movie stirred things up for me by introducing another character in dire straits -- Jimmy (Nate Parker) -- who I really did care about. I found him compelling as a confused young man caught up in his fear of seeing his future dissolve in front of him, a desire to honor the memory of his father, and loyalty to a man who helped his family at a time of need.


I was also excited to see Tim Roth as Michael Bryer, an angry police investigator determined to close in on his quarry. I loved watching that man conduct an interrogation. My biggest disappointment with this movie was that this character wasn't developed a bit further. Roth gave a worthy performance, but his character didn't seem as multidimensional as I'd expected.

This is a carefully crafted, plot driven thriller/drama that could easily have been glib and predictable. However the protagonist was sufficiently complex -- and the plot offered enough twists -- to keep me guessing. This movie offered an intriguing character study as well as an enjoyable, somewhat twisty ride.

12 comments:

  1. Exceeded my expectations as well, glad you enjoyed it too. He does play an unlikable character, yet I agree that I can't look away, and wonder what will happen next. Which I think is partly down to Gere's nuanced performance, and the structure of the story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! "Nuanced" is a good way of describing his performance.

      Delete
  2. Good review. Another thing that struck me about this movie was how frustrating Tim Roth's accent was. As much as I like Tim Roth, who was born in Britain, his NY accent was AWFUL. Maybe he should stick to playing characters with his Native accent, eh?

    This is probably the best movie I've seen Richard Gere in, though "Hachi" made me cry the most.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Roth's New York accent did seem a bit odd, but for some reason it didn't bother me.

      After seeing your reaction to Hachi, I will never, ever subject myself to that film! :-)

      Delete
  3. Glad you liked it. I loved the performances (Nate Parker was *this* close to a supporting nod from me), but I also felt Roth was underused. Still, Gere and company totally delivered, and I though the script was quite good too. Nice review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you appreciated Parker's performance so much. I found it quite engrossing. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing him in more roles.

      Delete
  4. This surprisingly became my #1 film of last year. Great performances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. #1 ... awesome! I'm glad you loved it so much. Great performances indeed.

      Delete
  5. I now want to see this very badly.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "...I am happy to see that, at 63, the man can still rock an illicit sex scene..."

    YES! That's awesome.

    Really glad you liked this one, it surprised the hell out of me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you recommended this one, based on Gere's performance, because it's one I probably would've passed on. Mainstream Hollywood thrillers don't usually appeal to me, even to revisit an adolescent celebrity crush. :-P The guy really does have talent, he's just played quite a few crap roles.

      Delete

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts -- reader comments make this blogging gig worthwhile. :-) Due to excessive spam, we are now moderating all comments. Like that dude in the Monty Python skit, we just Don't ... Like ... Spam. I will try to post and respond to your comments as quickly as possibly.