In this contemporary financial thriller, 60 year-old New York hedge-fund manager Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is about to make the deal of a lifetime – and retire in rarefied elegance. Problem is: he’s ‘borrowed’ $412 million dollars from a colleague to cover his assets and is betting that John Mayfield (Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter), representing the major bank that’s about to buy his trading firm, won’t catch on to how he’s cooked-the-books before the deal is done.
Struggling to hide his fraudulent duplicity from his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), who happens to be his Chief Financial Officer, and his loyal, long-suffering wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon), Miller’s also having an affair with a French art-dealer, Julie Cote (former Victoria’s Secret model Laetetia Casta), who, inconveniently, dies in an automobile accident, implicating Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), the son of Miller’s chauffeur. That arouses the suspicion of sleazy NYPD Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth), who knows Jimmy’s not guilty but is using his vulnerability as leverage to get to a Wall Street tycoon like Miller.
Inspired by a series of 2010 Vanity Fair articles: “The Great Hangover: 21 Tales of the New Recession,” it is astutely written and directed as a debut feature by Nicholas Jarecki, who questions the ethics of our time, pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior to avoid moral and financial bankruptcy. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Nicholas Jarecki’s father is Manhattan philanthropist Henry Jarecki.
Silver-haired Richard Gere is perfectly cast as the charming, sophisticated billionaire who has always used his immense wealth to ruthlessly manipulate people and ‘buy’ whatever he wants. Entitlement comes naturally to him, just as being a predatory benefactor has become his way of life. But then comes the market crash – and he’s suddenly caught in a bind, having made a stupid, irresponsible investment in a copper mine in Russia. To his credit, Gere manages to have the audience realizing his culpability yet rooting for him at the same time.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Arbitrage” is a savvy 7, slick and suspenseful.