A wealth of tal­ent

Is a well-acted, guilty plea­sure, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

GREED is good, un­til it isn’t any­more, in Arbitrage – a guilty-plea­sure thriller for these tough eco­nomic times. In di­rect­ing his first fea­ture, writer and doc­u­men­tar­ian Ni­cholas Jarecki shows great com­mand of tone – a bal­ance of sex, dan­ger and ma­nip­u­la­tion with some in­sid­er­ish busi­ness talk and a healthy sprin­kling of dark hu­mour to break up the ten­sion.

His film is well-cast and strongly acted, and while it couldn’t be more rel­e­vant, it also re­calls the deca­dence of 1980s Wall Street, shot in 35mm as it is, with a synth-heavy score from com­poser Cliff Martinez (who wrote sim­i­lar mu­sic for Drive).

Arbitrage is a lurid look at a lav­ish life­style that al­lows us to cluck dis­ap­prov­ingly while still vi­car­i­ously en­joy­ing its lux­u­ri­ous trap­pings.

Richard Gere stars as Robert Miller, a bil­lion­aire hedge-fund mag­nate who, as the film opens, mag­nan­i­mously shares his wis­dom in an in­ter­view with CNBC’s Maria Bar­tiromo.

As he turns 60, Miller would seem to have it all – looks, wealth, a lov­ing fam­ily and re­spect among his peers: yet he al­ways wants more and feels em­bold­ened by the dif­fer­ent set of rules and morals that seems to ap­ply in his rar­efied world.

So he ‘‘bor­rows’’ $US417 mil­lion from a fel­low ty­coon to cover a hole in his port­fo­lio and make his com­pany look as sta­ble as pos­si­ble as it’s about to be ac­quired by a bank. This is oth­er­wise known as fraud. And de­spite the loy­alty and sup­port of his smart, beau­ti­ful wife (Su­san Saran­don), he has a hot (and hot-headed) French mis­tress on the side (for­mer Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret model Laeti­tia Casta) who runs in stylish, hard-par­ty­ing art cir­cles.

Both these schemes ex­plode in his face over the course of a few fate­ful days. An au­dit of his com­pany has raised some red flags, mak­ing the po­ten­tial buyer turn re­luc­tant and eva­sive.

This prompts the sus­pi­cions of his de­voted daugh­ter (Brit Mar­ling, ev­ery bit Gere’s equal), who’s also the com­pany’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and heiress ap­par­ent. But more im­me­di­ately and dra­mat­i­cally, Miller is in­volved in a deadly ac­ci­dent that puts the po­lice on his tail (Tim Roth plays the lead de­tec­tive with a won­der­fully thick New York ac­cent) and re­quires him to en­list the help of a kid from Har­lem (Nate Parker) who’s the son of his late, long­time chauf­feur.

That’s a lot of plates to keep spin­ning at once; the fi­nan­cial sto­ry­line alone could have suf­ficed with­out the af­fair mess­ing things up fur­ther.

What’s sur­pris­ing about Arbitrage is that Jarecki never judges this man for the tricky po­si­tion he’s got him­self into and never tries to steer our feel­ings to­wards him, ei­ther.

Gere is so charm­ing, so ir­re­sistible when he’s on top of the world – and has all those plates hum­ming in uni­son – that he makes you bar­rack for his char­ac­ter to get away with it all. His placid de­meanour is per­fect, which makes the few times Miller does snap that much more star­tling.

The film’s strong women don’t get enough to do un­til the third act, when Saran­don and Mar­ling both have pow­er­ful show­downs with Gere. But the sup­port­ing cast is well-cho­sen, down to the ac­tors who ap­pear in just a cou­ple of scenes, like Stu­art Mar­golin as Robert’s dryly funny lawyer and Van­ity Fair ed­i­tor Graydon Carter as the head of the bank that’s ac­quir­ing Miller’s com­pany.

Miller may not learn any­thing by the end, and tee­ter­ing on the brink of se­ri­ous trou­ble doesn’t make him a more de­cent per­son; ac­tu­ally, he gets nas­tier and more de­mand­ing as the screws tighten.

As Parker’s char­ac­ter puts it: ‘‘You think money is gonna fix this?’’

Miller doesn’t miss a beat in re­spond­ing: ‘‘What else is there?’’

opens to­day.

Su­san Saran­don and Richard Gere star in

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