Friday, 28 September 2012

ARBITRAGE - Starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon - Review By Greg Klymkiw

If you were rich, powerful and married to Susan Sarandon, would you really cheat on her by boinking and bankrolling a shrill, obnoxious, overly-needy, grotesquely toothy, pretentious, vaguely unintelligent, perpetually pinch-faced young "artist"? Seriously, you can pretty much have any woman you want behind your perfect, loyal, gorgeous wife's back and you're going to choose a well-worn dishrag who is annoying you constantly while you're facing one of the most challenging financial crises of your life in which you might lose everything? I mean, seriously! Really?

Arbitrage (2012) **1/2
dir. Nicholas Jarecki
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker, Stuart Margolin

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The financial crisis is yielding a number of high profile feature-length dramas. Some are genuinely great (Capital by Costa-Gavras), others are godawful (Oliver Stone's horrendous misfire Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), while a number of pictures are floating around amidst a middle ground of respectable watchability.

The good news in all this is that there appear to be a whole bunch of new movies that are not aimed at the ADHD-challenged youth audiences (most of whom have the symptoms, but not the actual disorder). The financial crisis pictures are, at the very least, endowed with some appeal to adults who come to the cinema equipped with something resembling attention spans and who might also be looking for movies that are actually about something.

Arbitrage is a decent journey into the world of financial shenanigans. It hits a few annoying speed bumps, though, which always seem to keep it from soaring to the heights of something like the aforementioned Gavras picture (which has set the bar pretty high with respect to the financial thriller genre) or Margin Call with its bravura all-star cast engaging in all manner of corporate chicanery.

What drives Arbitrage is a dazzling performance by Richard Gere who, since his amazing turn as the evil cop in Mike Figgis's Internal Affairs, has been transforming - with each passing year - into a mature, complex and riveting actor. As Robert Miller, a beleaguered CEO of a major corporation, it's Gere's best role since his turn as the villainous Dennis Peck in the aforementioned 1990 cop thriller.

Here he plays a character who's got it all - a reputation for being one of the most fair and visionary corporate rulers in America, a gorgeous wife (Susan Sarandon) who devotes herself to charitable activities and a brilliant, mind-bogglingly sexy daughter (only natural given that the character Brit Marling plays is the progeny of Daddy Gere and Mama Sarandon).

Alas, Robert Miller's made a big financial gaffe and risked a huge amount of money on hedge funds. He's covered the internal losses by borrowing from a super high-end shylock. This is not a good thing. He's being investigated by the internal revenue service and his deception might unfairly implicate his daughter (the company's CFO) who has been shielded from his naughty dabbling.

The only thing that can save him is if he sells his company for a huge profit. Another corporation is definitely interested, but there are mysterious forces that seem to be working against him to make the deal work. The clock is ticking on his debt to the shylock and soon he's having the discussion with his lawyer (the wonderful Stuart Margolin) about what his minimum prison sentence might be if things go wrong.

Adding insult to injury, he becomes embroiled in a Chappaquiddick-like scandal that he's desperate to cover up. This, however, is becoming next to impossible since a pitbull police detective (Tim Roth) wants to nail his ass at all costs. Soon Miller's having additional talks with his lawyer about what degree of murder he might be charged with.

Director Jarecki has certainly fashioned a screenplay that piles on the endless conflict and he happily helms it so the barrage of complications never feel like a train wreck. His direction is far from stylistically flashy, but this is a good thing given the twists and turns he expunges upon us. The script is written to be covered with efficiency and he delivers that in spades.

Gere, no matter where the picture goes (wrongly or rightly), is always compelling throughout the proceedings. His character does a lot of bad shit, but he genuinely believes he's doing it for a greater good. Gere's performance is so mesmerizing that he allows us to swallow the "greater good" stuff hook, line and sinker. He's also so damned charming that we're with him all the way.

One of the more inexplicable subplots involves an affair Miller's having with a shrill, obnoxious, overly-needy, grotesquely toothy, pretentious, vaguely unintelligent, perpetually pinch-faced young art curator from Paris whom he's bankrolled completely to indulge her dreams of art world supremacy. Here's the rub, though. Miller can have any woman he wants behind his perfect, loyal and gorgeous wife's back. (I can only reiterate: It's fucking Susan Sarandon for Christ's sake!)

Somehow, we have to swallow that Susan Sarandon is reduced to a cuckquean for Richard Gere to choose a pushy, well-worn dishrag who is added-value-equipped with a penchant for annoying him ad nauseam as he faces one of the most challenging financial crises of his life. We can only hope she gives him tremendous head or something, because this harridan mistress is too busy sniping and complaining and we never get to see her delivering the goods to pay for the bankroll he lobs her way.

In spite of this, Arbitrage is a generally well-plotted screenplay with a nicely layered main character. That said, it sometimes feels so well plotted that it seems closer in style to a decent television movie or a straight to simultaneous VOD and home entertainment release instead of having the scope and punch of a genuinely theatrical big screen motion picture.

Thankfully, the picture has Richard Gere to raise it above the level of small-screen competency. With anyone else in the role, Arbitrage might well have been Garbage-itrage.

"Arbitrage" is playing theatrically across Canada via VVS Films.