Wall Street money wiz and hedge fund manager Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is having a bad few days. His wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) is growing suspicious about his odd behavior and daughter (and trusted co-worker) Brooke (Brit Marling) is starting to wonder if an expected sale of his beloved company is going as well as he says it is, all then while Robert is hiding a secret loan from a business associate that goes well against FCC regulations. Topping things off, his secret mistress Julie CŰte (Laetitia Casta) has just died in a tragic auto accident, an accident he has felt forced to cover up utilizing the help of the son, Jimmy (Nate Parker), of a now deceased former employee.
With dogged NYPD Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) tracking his every step Robert is running out of time to fix things with his wife, pay back the borrowed money, keep his daughter in the dark about his financial misdeeds make sure the sale of his company goes through as planned. Itís a mess, but if anyone can extricate themselves from such a quagmire it must be him. Right?
Hereís what I wrote about this film in my theatrical review:
ďNewbie writer/director Nicholas Jareckiís main claim to fame is that he co-wrote the atrocious The Informers, the all-star 2008 adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel directed by Gregor Jordan. On the positive side of the spectrum, he also directed the quite good 2005 James Toback documentary The Outsider, following in the footsteps of his documentarian siblings Andrew (Capturing the Friedmans) and Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight).
With Arbitrage, the director attempts to come into his own as a filmmaker, tackling themes present in both his previous works while also attempting to move into dramatic territory speaking of the here and now. Using the 2008 financial collapse as a backdrop, Jarecki paints a frigid picture of wealth and power struggling to keep its head above water, a man on the edge pulling out all the stops in order to do what he feels is right both for himself but also for the children he not so secretly loves.
The good news? Richard Gere dominates the film in a way that makes it feel immediate and genuine. His performance is multifaceted in the extreme, mining depths and going into dank, dark territories a lesser actor would do their best to avoid. He doesnít worry about making Robert redeemable, doesnít dwell on trying to make the audience sympathize with his plight, instead doing all he can to make him as three-dimensional as possible as the financial titan uses one hand to dig his way out of a ditch while the other caresses the shovel that so inelegantly helped create it.
Unfortunately, as great as he is, and he is legitimately fantastic, maybe even Oscar nomination worthy, by and large weíve seen this game from him before. It isnít like the actor isnít covering any new ground, elements of everything from Pretty Woman, to An Officer and Gentleman, to Unfaithful, to Shall We Dance (just to name four) making up facets of Robertís personality. Especially as things revolve around the affair, the crashed car and the subsequent cover up, it isnít like thereís anything new going on, and as handsomely mounted and as impeccably acted as everything is the lack of anything close to a surprise is a problem the film has trouble overcoming.
Not that Jarecki doesnít try. From a technical standpoint, the movie is a first class effort start to finish. The talented Marling shines in her small but pivotal role as Robertís trusted daughter, while Sarandon is her usual classy self bringing unexpected layers to the otherwise thinly written Ellen. Only Roth fails to rise to the occasion, and while his performance in and of itself is perfectly fine itís not like heís venturing to far beyond tropes and tricks weíve come to expect from him in everything from his Oscar-nominated turn in Rob Roy to his three year stint headlining Foxís ďLie to Me.Ē
As far as the financial stuff goes, it doesnít help matters that J.C. Chandorís outstanding Margin Call covered a lot of this stuff in far greater detail and with much more energy and panache just last year. If anything, one gets the feeling that Jarecki isnít particularly interested in the Wall Street angles, throwing them in to give the picture a hook indicative of the here and now.
All the same, it isnít that Arbitrage is a bad movie by any means, itís too well acted, especially by Gere, and to a certain extent by Marling, for that to be the case. Itís just that, for as confident as Jareckiís handling of it all is, as well paced and as nicely put together as the majority of it is, itís just too hard to get past the inherent sense of dramatic dťjŗ vu that permeates throughout the production. Itís a great attempt, a valiant effort thatís by and large enjoyable for what it is; itís just not a movie I can bring myself to state must be viewed inside a theatre. Make of that what you will.Ē
Gere is terrific, and I hope my review doesnít slight him in any way whatsoever. Additionally, Marling and Sarandon are also both incredibly strong, each actress given a scene or two to shine showcasing their mutual talents beautifully. While the movie is a little underwritten and more than a bit familiar, it does play incredibly well at home, and as such flaws and all I do think majority of audiences are going to find much here to happily enjoy.
Arbitrage is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.78:1 1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and features optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ Audio Commentary with writer/director Nicholas Jarecki Ė Excellent commentary track from the filmmaker that covers every aspect of the filmís production as well as his intimacy with the subject matter thanks to his parentís involvement in the commodity business.
∑ A Glimpse into Arbitrage (12:22) Ė Standard EPKI-style behind-the-scenes piece that doesnít add a lot to the conversation. Stick to the commentary track.
∑ Who is Robert Miller? (7:02) Ė Okay character examination piece that tries to look at Miller from as many sides as seven minutes allows.
∑ Deleted Scenes with Optional Directorís Commentary Ė Just over 10 minutes of additional and extended material, much of it quite strong, Jarecki going into quick detail as to why he felt the need to excise the majority of it.
Worthwhile for Gereís performance alone, Arbitrage, while on the familiar side, is still a worthy effort that plays better at home than it did in the theatre. Lionsgateís Blu-ray is technically outstanding, Jareckiís involving audio commentary the highlight of the otherwise meager special features.