Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Arbitrage": a somewhat artificial, brooding thriller

I recall, in the late 1980s, when I was working for Chilton Corporation in Dallas (an ancestor of Experian), and when it was acquired by Borg-Warner, which was subsequently “attacked” for possible hostile takeover by Ivan Boesky, that the newspapers started talking about leveraged buyouts and “arbitrage”.  We played word games in French: “le beau arbitrageur, la belle arbitrguese”.

In the dramatic thriller “Arbitrage” (directed by Nicholas Jarecki), an over-ripened Richard Gere plays the upper East Side arbitrageur Robert Miller, and Brit Marling (“Sound of My Voice”) plays his grown daughter Brooke, the “arbitraguese”.  She has more moral scruples than her dad, and fears they will all be taken down.  His wife (Susan Sarandon, who rather resembles Sigourney Weaver here) is practical, willing to cover for him to get what she wants. She knows about the mistress Julie (Laetita Casta).

Robert has already played some Ponzi games (of the Madoff kind) when a deal from Russia falls apart, and faces the DOJ; it gets artificially complicated when Robert takes her up to Westchester, falls asleep at the wheel, and gets involved in a deadly rollover crash (well done), and escapes, leaving her to dissipate when the car explodes. 

An inquisitive NYC detective (Tim Roth) enters the scene, and the denouement of the plot will come from overzealous and dishonest tactics on the part of police.

I did not find the film as captivating as “Margin Call” about a year ago.  The film has an ambiguous beginning, but really picks up in the "middle" with the crash.  Structurally, the screenwriting and storytelling are fairly cookie-cutter. 

The link for the film is here

I saw this film at a Saturday morning show at the AMC Shirlington, before a fair crowd.

While Roadside Attractions is the theatrical distributor, Lionsgate has offered the film on YouTube for rental at $6.99.  Lionsgate and Roadside seem to collaborate a lot these days on dramatic films. 

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