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“Arbitrage”: Is Richard Back in Gere?

September 14, 2012

It’s been a rough decade for Richard Gere: After his 2002 double-header of Unfaithful and Chicago, his career has been seriously lacking in razzle-dazzle. Shall We Dance was a misstep. Nobody fell for The Hoax. The Hunting Party missed the target. Brooklyn’s Finest was far from it. Bee Season had no buzz. The Earhart biopic Amelia vanished without a trace. The Double didn’t even hit a single. And Hachi: A Dog’s Tale… nah, it’s too easy.

But Gere’s back in Primal Fear form, returning to his prematurely gray roots as a hedge-fund guru mixed up in corruption, adultery and vehicular manslaughter in Arbitrage, a sleek, ’80s-style thriller debuting on VOD and in theaters. It’s like Richard Gere’s Greatest Hits, remixing American Gigolo and Pretty Woman with Fear and Unfaithful. (The movie’s tagline, “Power is the ultimate alibi,” recalls another vintage Gere film: Sidney Lumet’s Power.) If his character, Robert Miller, had a military background, you could throw in An Officer and a Gentleman. Yet here he’s anything but…

As Miller’s deadly dalliance with a comely underling (Laetita Casta) threatens to derail a billion-dollar merger, the silver-haired devil role fits Gere as perfectly as his finely tailored suits. If only the supporting actors were all so well-suited to their parts. Tim Roth is enjoyably hammy as an NYPD detective hot on MIller’s trail, and Susan Sarandon is as solid as ever in the standard long-suffering-wife role. But Brit Marling—so mesmerizing in offbeat indies Another Earth and The Sound of My Voice—seems ill-at-ease as Gere’s corporate-exec daughter, and the casting of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter as his potential new business partner is just distracting. (At least he’s more convincing than Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner was as himself in the inaptly titled Perfect.) As big-shot lawyers, reliable character actors Stuart Margolin (The Rockford Files) and Reg E. Cathey (The Wire) round out the ensemble nicely.

Writer-director Nicholas Jarecki—not to be confused with sibling documentarians Andrew and Eugene Jarecki—clearly worships at the altar of Adrian Lyne; Unfaithful, Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal could all work as alternate titles for Arbitrage. And unlike, say, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (in which Carter also appeared), you don’t need to understand credit-default swaps to follow the story. It’s less about high finance than low morals. Yet it’s so swiftly plotted and visually polished that—to put it in Gere-centric terms—in the final analysis, it’ll leave you breathless.

What’s your favorite Richard Gere flick? Any Internal Affairs, Sommersby or Days of Heaven fans out there? (And if anyone says Runaway Bride, I’m running away!)

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3 Comments
  1. lara harlow-hentz permalink

    Reblogged this on lara harlow-hentz and commented:
    I will see this one!

  2. Agree with your assessment. Heard lots of echoes of previous Gere performances–in a good way. In the scene on the park bench with his daughter, I was expecting “I got no place else to go!” And I loved the final scene–a superficial triumph masking hypocrisy and defeat. Highly recommended.

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