"Arbitrage" *** (100 minutes)


Tuesday August 14, 2012

First time narrative director/writer Nicholas Jarecki (brother of documentarians Andrew and Eugene) mentioned during the Q and A that he received his screenwriting inspiration from the Bernie Madoff scandal.  Although there have been several films indirectly referencing that 2008 horrific crime where this individual defrauded thousands of folks from their life savings for his own personal party, Jarecki has written a script that will certainly hold your interest - even though the plot lines tends to be so overwrought that the film feels somewhat forced in order to wrap up the neat ending in the final reel.

Richard Miller (Richard Gere in a standout performance) has it all: millions of dollars, a beautiful loyal wife and family, a luxurious mansion, a glorious lifestyle, and fame by the bucket loads.  Soon, we come to learn that he is involved in a deal that involves his hiding $400 million of his investor's assets in order to complete a merger.  His daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling), the Chief Financial Officer, who thinks everything is on the up-and-up, stands to be indicted if it is discovered that her father has been cooking the books.  Adding to all of this intrigue is the messy circumstance that happens a third of the way into the film when Richard, while surreptitiously taking his mistress (Laetetia Casta) on a brief vacation, has a car accident that results in her death - which he proceeds to cover  up.

Hot on his tail is Colombo-like detective Michael Bryer (the memorable Tim Roth) who smells something fishy about all of this and begins desperately trying to piece it all together.  Much of the suspense/fun is trying to determine how/if Miller wriggles free from his slowly collapsing life.  I have to admit that, as despicable as Miller is, there was a certain part of me hoping that he carries it off -which is a tribute to Gere's acting and charisma - however implausible the circumstances and final conclusion.   

Overall, a nice debut by Jarecki whose future work bears watching.     

Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and Robert Miller (Richard Gere)