ARBITRAGE. Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Brit Marling. Directed by Nicholas Jarecki. 100 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong themes and coarse language).
We might not be able to win an economics quiz accurately describing what arbitrage is, but it is a term which deals with competing bids and margins of profit (more or less). It is clearly a theme in this financial drama and thriller – it also serves as a metaphor for the behaviour of the central character, corporation high flyer, Robert Martin, concerning his life and risks as patriarch of his family (his word) and the interests and risks of his financial empire.
For most audiences, this will prove to be a fascinating drama of a man who has made major wrong decisions and is trapped when the circumstances he has created begin to unravel. He has told initial lies and they have disastrous consequences as they lead to other lies and other lies.
This is a Richard Gere film and he dominates it as he has for more than 35 years. He is Robert Miller, 60, one of those (until recently) seemingly unassailable lords of finance. The audience is quickly led into his dilemmas concerning selling his company, a false audit, his borrowing over four hundred million dollars from a colleague who wants it back while the potential buyer of his company avoids meeting him and delays the deal.
That in itself would make for an interesting film. However, while he appears as the devoted family man, has his family around him for his 60th birthday, including his loving wife (Susan Sarandon in a better role than she has had in recent years) and his daughter (a strong Britt Marling) who is also his business partner but does not know of her father’s troubles, he soon goes out to visit his mistress (Laetitia Castel), an artist whose show he is backing.
More disaster with a car crash. His leaving the scene of the crash and asking for help from the son of an old employee, lead from one deception to another, then another.
The combination of these two plots makes for intriguing watching. It is complicated for our emotional and moral response because of Richard Gere’s making Robert Miller quite seductively charming, even as he manipulates people, avoids detection and undermines his family unity. He presumes that he can do what he likes for as long as possible (despite some moments of thinking that he ought to surrender). Since his philosophy is that there are five things which matter in this world: M.O.N.E.Y., he presumes that it will solve all problems.
There are effective performances from Tim Roth as the detective who is determined to nab the billionaire and who abhors his type, from Nate Parker as the young man and driver who does not want to snitch but finds that he is trapped by the police, and from Stuart Margolin as Miller’s wily lawyer.
The film blends questions of morality, plausible arguments about how the truth might harm many others, and cynicism about how the captains of industry can walk unscathed through life
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out September 27, 2012.