Matt’s Review: Richard Gere Plays a Conniving Billionaire in the Dramatic But Dry ‘Arbitrage’By
I literally never heard anything about Arbitrage until I was made aware of the press screening. So I walked into this film without so much as a trailer or even a synopsis to give me an idea of what this film was about. It stars Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and the great Tim Roth. The film is full of intrigue and drama that is bolstered by excellent performances from the aforementioned headliners and the rest of the cast.
Gere stars as Robert Miller, a billionaire businessman about to sell his successful company — but all is not as it seems, with Gere cooking the books to hide recent investment losses, having an affair with a struggling artist, and lying to his family about all of this. Everything hits the fan when he vacations with his mistress and falls asleep at the wheel of her car, crashing the car and killing his lover. Instead of facing his mistake, he runs from his responsibility leaving in hopes his lies won’t be revealed. This introduces Tim Roth as a New York Detective, a crass, in-your-face personality that can see right through Miller’s lies.
The film battles with many important themes like deceit, loyalty, betrayal, and arrogance. The thing is, the loyalty stems from the supporting characters who all believe Miller is a stand-up guy like his family or his old friend Jimmy Grant who ‘secretly’ picks up the battered billionaire after the accident. The deceit, betrayal, and arrogance comes from Miller himself, the film’s lead character. Most of my distaste from Arbitrage came from the filmmakers finding new ways for Miller to weasel out of a plethora of sticky situations. As a human being with a conscience, I’m rooting for the detectives to catch Miller for being such a lying, chicken-shit prat who leaves the scene of an accident and death he caused.
Miller spends the duration of the film lying to his business partners, his mistress, his wife, his daughter and CFO of his company, to Jimmy Grant who puts his neck on the line to help Miller avoid the consequences of the accident, it’s sickening. Don’t get me wrong, Miller isn’t evil. But he’s a snake, slithering his way out of everything. His world is collapsing around him and he’ll go to any lengths to save face. He goes around from place to place, person to person, trying to hide his misdeeds. I want him to get caught. Some justice is delivered, but for the most part, Miller is too good for those trying to catch him.
Despite some really high stakes, a lot of this is expressed solely with sprawling dialogue, making Arbitrage a little dry. Gere goes around talking to everyone, trying to tie up lose ends. Some of the dialogue is dynamic and intriguing and other scenes just feel like a waste of time. Some scenes don’t really ‘say’ anything despite featuring people doing a lot of talking.
Tim Roth was by far the most interesting character to watch, but unfortunately, he was underutilized — Miller’s daughter also left me wanting more, but she too was underused. Watching Roth work it all out and see right through Robert Miller’s lies were the most exciting pieces of the film. His brash exchanges with the ritzy white collar characters provided the most dramatic clashes in the film. However, they were too few in the total of Arbitrage.
Overall, Arbitrage is definitely a movie not suited for younger audiences (80% of the screening I attended was over 45). The appeal is definitely for an older generation of business folks and fans of Sarandon and Gere. The themes can translate to a younger crowd, but the impact won’t be the same with the way the message is delivered. I enjoyed the performances and seeing it all play out, but by the end I was not left satisfied.
What Should You Do? Wait for the home video experience.