There are times when watching an unlikable character that can be mesmerising. There's a charm to their irresponsible self-destruction that produce a perverse satisfaction. It's the feeling when you watch Alex (Malcolm McDowell) in A Clockwork Orange or David Brown (Woody Harrelson) in Rampart. Unfortunately, there are characters that are so plainly unlikable that it's nigh impossible to even invest in the telling of the story; and that's conflicted feeling experienced watching Richard Gere's hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller in Arbitrage.
Investment Banking CEO Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is one of the good guys, only that's the surface aesthetic. Instead he’s a fraudulent adulterer who is caught in the quagmire of bad debt and while falsifying accounts for a business deal when he’s involved in an accident involving his mistress (Lalietta Casta).
Writer-Director Nicholas Jarecki unravels this symbolic slight against big money by peeling back the layers of that shining white collar 'role-model' that is Miller. The respected, eloquent and attractive figurehead puts the 'CON' back in confident. Jarecki makes you wallow in the aftermath of Miller's fleeting selfish decisions and contextualises the impact on the people he has bought as pawns. The cinematography by Yorick Le Saux (Carlos) balances the warmth of Miller's facade with the cold tone of a corporate thriller.
Gere's suits the smiling, smarmy Miller and he does a good job infuriating. The stand-out performances are from Susan Sarandon (s Miller’s down trodden wife) and Nate Parker’s everyman pawn Jimmy Grant (who is possibly the only likeable character in the film).
Arbitrage is competing between the narrative form of the corporate thriller and the inherent corruption and irresponsibility of those embedded in the industry. Unfortunately it breaks even.
[rating=2] and a half
Directed by: Nicholas Jarecki
Written by: Nicholas Jarecki (screenplay)
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Lalietta Casta, Nate Parker, William Friedkin and Brit Marling
Arbitrage is released on the 27th of September 2012 in Australia and on the 14th of September 2012 in the USA.
BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.