Robert Miller (Gere) should have lots to celebrate: Turning 60, he has his health, a loyal wife (Susan Sarandon, Cloud Atlas) and a megasuccessful firm he’s about to sell for a tidy profit. But Robert is duplicitous; he’s actually in dire straits financially, and sunk if the sale fails to go through within the week.
And then things actually get bad.
A poor decision begets a tragic accident, which begets more poor decisions. Suddenly, just the risk of losing his shirt seems positively quaint in hindsight.
Smart, adult-oriented thrillers that can excite without relying on action scenes are a rare breed these days, so when one comes along that satisfies — even not completely — it’s a reason for a quiet celebration, preferably between you and a DVD player, and then to tell your closest friends.
The feature debut of writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, brother of documentarians Eugene (Freakonomics: The Movie, The House I Live In) and Andrew (Capturing the Friedmans, Catfish), Arbitrage has lots to offer, and Gere’s powerhouse performance of a deeply flawed man is just the start. Set in a currently relevant environment, the script generates suspense out of strategy — moves made by his daughter (Brit Marling, Sound of My Voice), a police detective (Tim Roth, clearly having a ball) and an old “friend” from the past (Red Tails’ Nate Parker, in a breakthrough role) who somehow ends up with the most to lose. —Rod Lott