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not as noir as it should be??
on 1 November 2014
I wasn't bored by "Arbitrage," and it is strongly cast and well-paced. Richard Gere is very credible as Robert Miller, a high-flying trader who is in a tight spot since his investment in a Russian copper mine failed to live up to expectations. He has had to borrow some tens of millions of dollars under the table, so to speak, and has had to do some fancy accounting to make his operation seem healthy enough to be sold at a price that will enable him to pay the lender AND make a healthy killing. Now, at the beginning, the lender wants his money and the buyer whom Miller thought would rescue him is stalling. So . . . it's a matter of holding one off and encouraging the other, while running an audit that covers up the weak spots in his accounting. Complicating matters further -- he wants to keep all this not only from the SEC but from his daughter, who is the Chief Investment Officer of his company, AND he's carrying on an affair with a young artist whose work he has encouraged, initially, it seems, as an investment.
We come to realize that all his decisions pose risks, but not only for him. His wife and daughter will suffer if his personal and financial dealings become known, and when he flees the scene of a car crash in which a person is killed, he drags in to help him the son of an old friend who then is put at risk too. When detectives start snooping around because of the crash's suspicious circumstances -- and all this before any financial deal is consummated -- then the heat is on, and the plot becomes a question of whether Miller can keep one step ahead of all the things that threaten to bring him down. Tim Roth is a dogged detective, Britt Marling is Miller's daughter, and Susan Sarandon his wife. All do a good job.
Nothing that I've said above constitutes a spoiler. What follows relates to tone and theme more than plot. There's a difference between saying, "Everyone is corrupt" and saying, "Hey, nobody's perfect." If you say the first, you make moody, noir films that are as long on atmosphere as on plot. If you say the second, you make a movie like "Arbitrage" -- fast paced, suspenseful, and leaving us little option but to cheer for some folks who are, after all, doing bad things (and NOT often for good reasons!). The movie doesn't help them earn our sympathy or support, although the situations keep us engaged. Is that a criticism? I'm not sure -- I just thought the movie needed to be a bit darker. For all that -- there's much to enjoy.