Richard Gere plays a successful businessman, Robert Miller. Miller is a busy man, shuffling two distinct lives: one in which he is a self-made millionaire and a family man, the very face of respectability and success; and another where he is a deceitful and unfaithful husband keeping a beautiful mistress on the side, while also being an intelligent business fraudster. When a car accident shutters the well-thought-out balance of his double life, forcing him to start covering his shameful deeds, it becomes unclear whether or not he has already gone too far on the road of lust and deceit to be able to surface unharmed.
On a positive side, ‘Arbitrage’ builds tension well, especially in the beginning. It is an intense and interesting watch, and, thanks to Gere, we see some very dramatic performances and interesting plot developments. However, strangely enough, as this film goes on it starts to disappoint. It becomes more predictable and overly dramatic, and would have sank beneath the mundane and ordinary but for Richard Gere’s convincing portrayal of a man on the brick of a nervous breakdown, and his supporting cast, which includes amazing Susan Sarandon, as Miller’s wife, Ellen, as-laid-back-as-ever – Tim Roth, as detective Bryer, and a relative newcomer, Brit Marling, as Miller’s daughter, Brooke.
Seeing Gere’s performance it is amazing to know that he actually replaced Al Pacino at the very last minute, just before the start of the film’s shooting. Though Al Pacino would also have made the best of this role, Gere is probably a better choice. This is because Al Pacino’s ‘mob history’ still clings to him despite all odds (as do his corresponding looks), and that impression would have given the character of Robert Miller away. Rumours have it that Eva Green (“Dark Shadows” (2012)) was also attached to the film to be cast as Robert Miller’s lover, Julie, the role, which eventually went to Laetitia Casta.
We probably have all seen ‘rich-and-successful-man-got-into-trouble’ films and even read some excellent books popularising that theme. One great novel here is Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’, portraying a rich Wall Street worker in the 1980s New York and his subsequent fall from grace. ‘Arbitrage’ follows a similar plot to Wolfe’s novel, but with a different finale. Interestingly enough, the 1990 film adaptation of ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’, starting Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith, proved to be a critical and commercial flop, decade later being aired only in the countries of the former Yugoslavia with some relative success.
The weakest point of ‘Arbitrage’ is probably its ending, which is a typical John Grisham ending, meaning there is no satisfactory ending at all. The film manages to build enough anticipation for the audience to feel underwhelmed by the end. Although, it is also fair to say that the ending is in no way unintelligent or without a drop of some clever aforethought.
Despite ‘Arbitrage’s faults and its dangerous proximity to appearing very predictable, the film can still be considered a very good crime thriller overall. Apart from the great cast and good performances, the film also has beautiful scenes and a fitting soundtrack. 6/10