(MA) Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth

In the wake of the global financial crisis it is to be expected that we will see movies that seek to capture every aspect of the turbulent years.

Arbitrage is one of those offerings, with a storyline with all the twists and turns of wealth, greed, high society, lust, deceit, massive deals, fraud, cover ups and complicit behaviour.

Richard Gere returns to screen as a Wall Street tycoon, ultra-wealthy in the eyes of his family, the investment community (he’s on the front cover of Forbes magazine) and benevolent causes.

At age 60, Gere’s character, Robert Miller, seemingly has it all. Those who hold to the common belief that the rich and powerful play by a different set of rules will not be disappointed.

Susan Sarandon plays a relatively small role as Miller’s wife. Other females in Miller’s life have a greater and more important part. Tragically, it is the accidental death of Miller’s mistress that threatens to bring the tycoon down.

The twist is that the French artist who shares his life dies as a result of one of Miller’s late-night dalliances when she sleeps in the passenger seat and he dozes at the wheel. She dies on impact while he frees himself before the car explodes in a fireball.

The tycoon makes a collect call to someone he thinks he can trust and circumstantial evidence helps a “Colombo”-looking Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) to believe that Miller was the driver. The prospect of an involuntary manslaughter charge threatens to ruin him.

Bryer is frustrated as the police have nothing concrete to place Miller at the wheel of her car.

As Miller battles to stay one step ahead of the law he has another fight on his hands that could also see him jailed. He is increasingly frustrated with his inability to seal a deal that would see him sell his financial business to someone else.

The third woman in his life is his daughter (played by Brit Marling) who is also the company’s Chief Investment Officer (CIO).

She stumbles across some “unusual” large transactions in the books and rightly questions her father. This produces strain on their previously trusted relationship. By this stage it is clear that failure to seal the deal while continuing to hide the massive fraud will bring him down.

A number of strange twists then occur which “clear” him of the driving charge. Then an eleventh-hour deal with the intending purchaser is threatened by the discovery of the fraudulent set of books. The acceptance of dishonesty is compounded with both his CIO daughter and the purchaser of his business accepting Miller’s unethical behaviour as common place.

Only time will tell whether the screenplay events played out in Arbitrage manifest themselves in real life. However as the screen fades to black and the credits roll, the audience is left with a group of people, including the police, believing that the behaviours portrayed are acceptable.

If you don’t catch Arbitrage now it is well worth waiting for when the DVD is released.

Allan Gibson


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