“Arbitrage” is a well dressed thriller, featuring a confident Richard Gere--now in his early sixties but still attractive and sporting a lush head of silver hair—as a rich businessman who gets tangled up in a murder plot. There’s nothing technically wrong with the movie—written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki—it’s just ill inspired and instantly forgettable. “Arbitrage” is neither good nor bad but just sits there, frozen in some kind of movie purgatory. It’s like a coma patient.
Gere plays Robert Miller, a hedge fund magnate with a picture perfect life. He has a supportive wife, Ellen (a greatly underused Susan Sarandon) and two grown up kids that work with him. They go to a lot of charity and political events and are respected by the community. However, not surprisingly, we find out Robert has a mistress, a local up and coming artist named Julie (Laetitia Casta). Julie is mad at Robert for not spending more time with her and one night while they’re driving together they get in a car crash and Julie dies. Robert now has to cover this up. To make things more stressful he’s also in the midst of selling his trading company, which was affected by the recession. Now, I should point out, Jarecki’s movie is asking us to sympathize with a rich old white man, which I just couldn’t do. But, moving on.
What we have here are two thriller premises—one involving finance, the other involving murder and cover up-- intertwined with one another. The two are potentially intriguing on their own but together they undermine each other. So, what we’re left with are bland businessman scenes, and generic cover up thriller plot points. The picture lacks suspense and excitement, which might have been OK if there was some humor, but “Arbitrage” takes itself seriously and therefore the movie is joyless and emotionally neutered. It’s a hollow shell of a film.
Richard Gere does what he can, in fact at times he seems to rise above the material, but ultimately he doesn’t have enough stability. Meanwhile, the supporting actors seem disinterested, like they’re there to pick up a paycheck. Even Jarecki seems disinterested, his direction lacking oomph and his screenplay going through the motions, jumping through the necessary hoops to get to the end.
Speaking of the ending. In an attempt to be a little ambiguous, the movie simply cuts off, which might have worked if the movie had amounted to more but since it doesn’t, the sudden cutting off makes “Arbitrage” even more forgettable.