Sunday, January 13, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Arbitrage (2012) ****

R, 107 min.
Director/Writer: Nicholas Jarecki
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker, Stuart Margolin, Chris Eigeman

Nicholas Jarecki’s “Arbitrage” is a classic thriller. Like a perfect version of an 80’s plot tangler, this movie knows how to pull us into to a not so nice man’s life, have him muck everything up, and somehow get us rooting for him. Richard Gere might be the only actor who could’ve pulled this role off.

Gere is ridiculously attractive. As he gets older, now 63, he somehow gets better looking. This helps him sell his adulterous white-collar criminal as the film’s hero. This is the type of role Hollywood once would’ve called Harrison Ford for, however it’s something beyond Ford since he began to come across as some curmudgeonly beach bum. This role requires a genuine charm necessary for someone as deplorable as Gere’s character to continue to get away with it all these years.

He plays a billionaire hedge fund manager who has bet everything on the sale of his company to cover debts he has incurred on his investors’ dimes. He’s in a long-standing adulterous relationship with an artist, whom he supports through the company. His daughter is his company’s CFO, yet he has hidden the company’s struggles from her. The company is being audited for the sale and he’s employed his most trusted inner circle with the task of cooking the books and hiding it from his daughter and the authorities. Then he does something else that turns him into a more traditional criminal. Soon a police detective comes sniffing around

What makes this movie so great is how crisply and cleanly it continues to raise the stakes against him. With every new development it seems there is no way he can come out on top in this game, yet he keeps playing and we keep rooting for him.

People often talk about emulating the great films of the 70s. This movie emulates the corporate thrillers of the 80s, and we realize that there was much to value in that decade’s films as well. The financial angle has become perhaps even more relevant today than in was in that initial period of corruption. “Arbitrage” is a perfectly executed thriller that evokes the 80s sensibilities of providing that mirror image to our society in an entertaining manner.

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