Liar liar, pants on fire.
(Roadside Attractions)

Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:

Hedge-fund wizard Robert Miller (Richard Gere), the antihero of Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, is all about high-risk living.  Whether it be concealing corporate fraud or cheating on his wife (Susan Sarandon) with a beautiful young artist (Laetitia Casta), “The Oracle” cruises along with unwavering confidence, presenting an aura that nothing bad could possibly happen to him.  It can, of course, and does at the worst possible time.

Walking a financial tightrope as his company’s potential buyer stalls the sale and his chief lender demands repayment, a tragic accident threatens to destroy his life on all fronts.  In a mad scramble, Robert calls on Jimmy (Nate Parker), the son of his former driver, for help.  Within hours, Detectives Bryer (Tim Roth) and Mills (Curtiss Cook) have Robert firmly in their sights and threaten Jimmy with jail.  As drama from each corner of Robert’s world come to a head, he desperately uses his influence and charm to save face, but his lies can only work for so long.

Watch how the pros do it.
(Roadside Attractions)

Wielding a level of confidence to match his lead, Jarecki’s first feature has all the signs of a seasoned veteran.  Set against Cliff Martinez’s perfectly cold, ambient score, Jarecki’s dialogue is sharp, the tension downright Hitchcockian, and the performances his direction encourages rank among the year’s finest ensemble efforts.

Leading the charge is Gere, a consistently charming actor who’s always felt good, not great, but who here elevates his game to career-best levels.  In Robert, he takes an all-around despicable character and somehow imbues him with a great deal of rooting interest.  Considering his numerous flaws, immense joy should be derived from his pending downfall, yet as the events play out, the prospect of Robert’s failure grows increasingly repugnant.  With little to admire besides his ambition, it’s nonetheless thrilling to see him scratch together small victories amid larger catastrophes, and in earning the audience’s unlikely support, Gere pulls of a truly remarkable con.

Parker: a star is born.
(Roadside Attractions)

Reliable products Sarandon and Roth are nearly as magnetic, but matching Gere line for line is Parker.  A recent favorite of Spike Lee’s (Red Hook Summer and the upcoming Old Boy remake), his Jimmy simmers with the quiet intensity of a young man attempting to escape his troubled past.  When he and Gere share the screen, Arbitrage is at its well-oiled peak.

The same cannot be said for Brit Marling, whose bizarrely airy voice clashes with the professionalism of the surrounding cast.  As Robert’s gifted heir-apparent daughter, her Brooke plays a pivotal role in his complex crisis, but with Marling’s sleepy talk gumming up the works, she never feels as powerful as she should.

No, HE’S suppose to be disgusted with YOU.
(Roadside Attractions)

Fortunately, the other pieces fit together so well that Marling can only cause so much damage.  Arbitrage is high quality drama, filtered through talented players who never let up.  Jarecki’s debut feature is a stunner from start to finish and both he and Gere should be remembered come awards season.

Grade: A

Rated R for language, brief violent images and drug use.

Arbitrage opens Friday, September 14 at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.

For more film reviews, visit The Isolated Moviegoer.

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