This intriguing, but at times, heavy-handed financial thriller features one of the most despicable white-collar protagonists in recent memory. Still, thanks to the expert performance by Richard Gere, we root for the billionaire hedge-fund fraud as he navigates his way from the brink of economic and emotional disaster.
At the start of Arbitrage, the Gordon Gekko-like magnate is quizzed by his wife (Sarandon), "Do you want to be the richest person in the cemetery?" His response, "I don't want to be in the cemetery" sums up the character who is determined to tackle the grave situation head-on. His financial empire is on the verge of collapse unless a proposed merger with a bank is inked pronto.
To make matters worse, the Wall Street pooh-bah is under investigation for an auto accident involving his art-dealer mistress (Laetitia Casta, lacklustre). As the various misdeeds pile on, his wheeler-dealing threatens every aspect of his life including his relationship with his upright daughter (newcomer Brit Marling, impressive). Embracing the mantra that money can buy anything, the financier even exploits his former chauffeur's young son (African-American actor Nate Parker, terrific) to stall the detective (veteran Tim Roth) investigating the car crash.
The snappy script takes an unblinking look at the machinations leading up to the fiscal debacle. While Yorick Le Saux's cinematography draws the viewer invitingly into the world of New York's financial elite, the production design provides a glimpse of their opulent lifestyle.On the downside, the narrative does tend to be contrived at times. Moreover, the posh climatic gala lacks conviction, leaving us to speculate on the corporate honcho's facile comeuppance.
Making his feature film debut Nicholas Jarecki, who brought an assured sensibility to the documentary, The Outsider (2005), generates a fair amount of dramatic tension. Ultimately, the movie is anchored by Richard Gere who invests his role with charisma as well as steely resolve. Just for this silver-haired actor for all seasons, Arbitrage is worth a dekko.