For the first time in the history of this career – you know, the one where I'm paid to watch movies – I Googled the name of a film before heading to the cinema. Because I had a feeling Arbitrage wasn't the name of Richard Gere's character, though the posters could have one fooled. Apparently, it involves making money from the price difference between two or more international markets. It sounds legal; it definitely seems logical.
If we're lucky, Arbitrage will show even the most business-linguistically challenged of us will figure out why most of America's p***ed off with Wall Street. We will also follow what most of the characters are saying most of the time. True, the actors enjoy spitting out jargon like it was the only vocabulary they grew up with. But the story transcends this, and manages to keep us hooked.
Writer-director Nicholas Jarecki crafts an exceptional script, where strong characters dictate the story, so that the events and their follow-up seem natural. Circumstances and the primal urge to save one's own skin, at all costs, eliminate the need for the crutch of coincidence.
It gives me special pleasure to watch Richard Gere in a dastardly role. Perhaps I grew up in a generation that sighed and swooned over his Pretty Woman line, "Not all men hit." Some aspects of Edward Lewis do carry over to Richard Miller, though – he's a troubled billionaire, with a weakness for the wrong kind of woman. And he has a secret – but this isn't a crisis of conscience that a hooker with insight can soothe. Here, he's truly an awful man, with no thought for anyone but himself.
And no one would have been any the wiser if it weren't for a nosy daughter and a chatty cop. An accident brings Detective Michael Bryer into Miller's life. You never let the cops in when you have something to hide – especially when the something involves hundreds of millions of dollars. The inspired casting of Tim Roth in the role of the detective ensures that our attention is riveted, but our loyalties are never divided.
We are always on Miller's side. His baseness of character finds foil in his nobility of countenance. And this appears to work on the premise that there is nothing more attractive than a haughty billionaire – except a handsome haughty billionaire. And though we're not sure he'll worm his way out of the mess, we're sure we want him to. Even if it means the ruin of all the good people we sympathise with, but strangely, don't relate to.
The Verdict: Arbitrage is a gripping thriller of the calibre of Match Point.