Arbitrage (2012)

Better than average

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on September 16, 2012 on tonymacklin.net.

Arbitrage is the latest in a long line of movies with touches of Alfred Hitchcock's DNA.

Nicholas Jarecki, the 33-year old writer/director of Arbitrage, is a graduate of the New York University Film School, so he knows his film history.

Arbitrage is about a man figuratively and literally on the run. We may root for Robert Miller (Richard Gere) even though he's guilty of crimes. Like Hitch, Jarecki uses his protagonist to manipulate his audience.

The film reverberates with themes such as deception, ethical ambiguity, and the impact of fate.

Robert's crimes are on two levels. One is professional; the other is personal. As a "billionaire" he has committed fraud, and he has borrowed money to cover his fraud. He is trying to sell his company to raise money to fix things before he is caught.

Robert's other crime is that he leaves the scene of an accident and tries to avoid incrimination, as a police detective (Tim Roth) doggedly pursues him.

Jarecki wavers a bit, and Arbitrage could be edgier, but Richard Gere gives a strong performance as the troubled businessman. He looks great with his wavy, silverish hair. He is a mixture of casual aplomb and anxious vulnerability.

Susan Sarandon portrays Robert's wife, and her role becomes crucial at the end. The only blonde (Hitch might balk) is Robert's daughter (Brit Marling), who is chief investment officer of her father's company.

Roth is an apt adversary as the gung-ho cop who wants to finally topple a Wall Street mogul.

Nate Parker is a little too soft and nice as the son of Robert's late driver. He tries to aid Robert and is thrown into an ethical dilemma that doesn't quite work. The character is perhaps too passive.

Jarecki raises themes that might appeal to Hitchcock. In Arbitrage, accident and unexpected circumstances shatter well-being.

Negotiation matters. Is there anyone you can trust? Money rules.

Hitch's DNA is still strong. Arbitrage provides potent evidence.


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For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).


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