Arbitrage – Review

Arbitrage – Review

Review by FilmFellaHenry – 5.5/10

It’s the eve of a major company merger for hedge fund mogul Robert Miller (Richard Gere) and his life seems perfect: adored by the press, praised for his charitable works and doted on by his prosperous family. But no one ever got rich by playing fair and Miller is no exception: following a brutal car crash, the skeletons in his closet come ever closer to tumbling forth. Juggling a web of lies, police suspicion and the vital merger that will make or break him, Miller’s life slowly collapses, forcing his true colours to be revealed.

Since the financial crisis in 2007, the turbulent and often callous trading world has become a popular film backdrop that is still prevalent 5 years on. While films like Margin Call and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps possessed a certain validity by highlighting the fragility of our current economic system (in a more accessible form than a documentary or the news), I can’t help feeling that this topic is starting to wear a little thin.

It is on this dubious footing that Arbitrage enters the fore, attempting a character study of a millionaire as his world gradually crumbles due to the mistakes he has made. Which would have been fine, had there actually been a decent character to work with in the first place. Despite initial impressions that Robert Miller is one of the more decent dollar grubbers, this myth is quickly liquidated as a history of infidelity, irresponsible business dealings and deceit emerges. While I don’t particularly object to the corrupt business man stereotype (after all Gordon Gecko fell firmly into this mould), I do at least expect some kind of character progression: without it I’m simply watching an arsehole worm his way out of self-imposed problems for 107mins.

Sadly, that is exactly my experience of Arbitrage: being forced to follow an unlikeable, incompetent money man on a predictable journey of personal ruin, who learns absolutely nothing from the experience. The thriller side of Arbitrage is a distraction at most: despite an appearance from Tim Roth as the dogged Detective Bryer out for Miller’s head, this sub-plot simply becomes just another protagonist hurdle and in light of his other problems, largely arbitrary. The same can be said for Miller’s relationship with his wife and kids, which is so far removed from the dynamics of a typical family, it’s difficult to swallow. Certainly that can be said for his wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon), whose warped rationality and flawed sense of personal justification leads to an ending that is both indecisive and unsatisfying.

Ultimately, all Arbitrage amounts to isa dull narrative with an equally uninspiring protagonist expounding that same old message of how power corrupts. Director Nicholas Jareckifails to expose anything original about the financial world, while simultaneously failing to present a character story worth watching. In essence it is a fail and one you would be better off without.

About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

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