Though it’s a bit of a shock to see Richard Gere white haired, wrinkly and playing 60 (he’s actually 63 in fact), this is one of his best performances ever, an astonishing tour-de-force of screen acting.
Not really the thriller it’s advertised as much as penetrating portrait of a deeply flawed individual, Arbitrage is essentially just a one-man show, and Gere is sizzling, inspired and just plain superb – no wonder he swung a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor.
And he’s playing a role that you never expected from him, wouldn’t have thought it in him at all. Is this really the same bloke that was an American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman? Here he’s a silky smooth, yet desperately stressed American patriarch, a troubled hedge fund magnate, ready to betray anyone, his wife, daughter, girlfriend, whoever, to survive by making the business deal he needs to pay off his debts in time – the sale of his trading empire to a business baron who won’t even turn up at meetings.
The other characters largely come over as cyphers, giving a strong cast some trouble to make their mark, though talent triumphs and they do. Susan Sarandon hits her stride in later scenes in an often ungrateful role as the rather bitter and brittle wife Gere’s cheating on, Brit Marling makes her mark as their needy daughter Brooke, Laetitia Casta is alluring as the girlfriend in question, Tim Roth does a lot of scenery-chewing as a shabby, dogged Columbo-style detective on Gere’s case, Nate Parker is excellent as his young employee who he involves in a crime cover-up and Stuart Margolin’s effective as the loyal if disgusted lawyer.
But all these are characters out of the book of stock movie personnel. Only Gere’s character feels truly real, alive and breathing desperately for life. The writing and star performance make your sympathies continually stray to Gere, when he’s the villain of the piece and they should probably be with the wife. He’s a bit of a memorable movie monster in the Michael (Gekko) Douglas mould, but with a fine actor/actress the monster’s always the favourite, isn’t he/she?
In a sense this movie is a critique of the world financial crisis, but it works best as a character study, while the financial and personal thriller plot holds water, luckily for the 25-year-old Nicholas Jarecki, whose debut feature this is. It’s greatly to his credit that he seems to effortlessly manage an over-drive of tension and atmosphere, both as writer and director. Arbitrage has faults but its plus points greatly outweigh the minuses. It’s a very promising start for a debut feature, and I hope he employs Gere again when he gets famous and Gere gets really old and needs the work.
Review by Derek Winnert
Around the web