VOD Review: Arbitrage

Films about troubled hedge fund magnates don't normally get my attention. I'm still not entirely sure what a hedge fund even is. But Arbitrage had just enough positive feedback to get me interested. And with its solid cast paired with my lack of knowledge of the actual plot, my icky feelings on money talk were quickly brushed aside.

Richard Gere plays said hedge fund magnate, Robert Miller, who's on the verge of selling his multi-million dollar corporation. Unfortunately, a bad international investment left him half a million short on the books, money which he borrows to cover up the error so the sale will pass during an audit. Not only does he have money issues, but while driving late one night, he falls asleep at the wheel, causing an accident that kills his mistress (Laetitia Costa) in the passenger seat. An accident from which he runs so as not to get caught with his pants down.

Had the film been about merely one indiscretion or the other, it wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining. But Miller is under attack from all sides. His daughter (Brit Marling) is the CFO of his company and begins to question him about the company's cooked books, while a determined detective (Tim Roth) is convinced Miller was behind the wheel when his mistress died. And he can't talk to his loving and devoted wife (Susan Sarandon) about his problems, as she seems to scheming on her own. So we watch as one man on top of the world very quickly spirals downward, teetering on the edge of losing absolutely everything, with a minimum of 20 years behind bars.

And yet we don't hate him. Gere plays the film's anti-hero so that no matter the outcome, the results wouldn't be terribly upsetting. He's sympathetic enough that should he get away with it all, it almost feels as though he's suffered enough under the pressure of hiding the truth and cleaning up his mess. Yet he's just arrogant enough that getting caught would feel like absolute justice. A very gray area, indeed.

But Arbitrage does have its slow, confusing moments, at least when the financial talk gets heavy. And though the mixing of Miller's issues makes for good entertainment, the thriller aspect of the film feels a bit too common in the end. Thankfully the cast gives could enough performances to mask it, and it's more about watching Miller chase his own tail than finding out whether or not he'll ever actually catch it.

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