Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth. Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki. 14A. 107 min. Opens Sept. 28.
Memo to Wall Street tycoons: Don’t keep a secret mistress or cook your company’s books—it’ll come back to bite you on your well-tailored ass. Just ask Robert Miller, the silver-haired magnate smoothly but unsympathetically embodied by Richard Gere in Arbitrage. Whether he can finesse his way out of hot water is the question that drives this ultimately disappointing financial thriller. Writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, helming his first feature, aims for a realistic, cynical take on the wealthy elite. The problem is that he couches it in a formulaic plot, raising certain expectations, which ultimately remain unfulfilled.
As the film opens, Robert is already a billionaire under pressure, trying to negotiate the sale of his investment firm to a skittish buyer while keeping everyone—including his chip-off-the-block daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling), the firm’s CFO—from discovering that he’s covered missing assets with a short-term loan. Then things get worse when a nighttime drive with his French artist mistress (Laetitia Casta) ends in a Ted Kennedy–style tragedy that Robert foolishly tries to cover up.
Jarecki effectively tightens the twin strands of suspense early on, as Miller tries to fend off both a dogged police detective (Tim Roth) nipping at his heels and the suddenly suspicious Brooke, who has stumbled upon his creative accounting. At the same time, he has to pin down the maddeningly elusive buyer (a cameo by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter) before the loan expires. At some point, however, you expect that either Miller will undergo a bout of serious soul-searching, or that at the very least we’ll be treated to an exciting cat-and-mouse chase, with Roth’s Columbo-like cop trying to outsmart this rich bastard.
Instead, we get neither—just the message that, guess what, everybody is devious and venal. Even Robert’s charity-supporting wife (Susan Sarandon) isn’t above playing dirty to get her way. Whether or not you subscribe to that view, you don’t need a two-hour movie to demonstrate it.