Considering he was one of my least favorite actors when he was in his 30s, I have to confess that Richard Gere has aged extremely well.
I don’t just mean he looks awfully good for a man of 63, although he does. I mean Gere has aged into himself in a way that makes him a better actor: more character lines in the face, more willingness to be vulnerable or panicky on screen. Yet still the same ramrod strut in his walk.
The lead role in “Arbitrage” could have been played by a number of actors of Gere’s generation, but he inhabits it very, very well. Meet Robert Miller, one of those Wall Street tycoons who keep their finances and their personal lives balanced in a way that looks highly dangerous from the outside.
Guess what? It’s dangerous from the inside, too.
Miller has the world on a string, except that he must sweat through an excruciating few days that range from a risky corporate merger (without which his shady monetary empire will implode) to a situation with his mistress (Laetitia Casta) that becomes more troublesome than he could have imagined.
The movie, written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki, follows this car wreck as it unfolds. Miller’s talent for improvisation and wheedling — we don’t need any flashbacks to know this guy was born to charm and bamboozle people — keeps getting stretched thinner and thinner.
“Arbitrage” succeeds by keeping its focus on the suspense of Miller’s situation; this is a satisfying, twisty little picture. But it also presents a certain 21st-century type: The money monster, the cipher who exists only to produce increasing piles of dollars, regardless of the damage he leaves in his wake.
The damage is to himself, too, and we get to witness the moment it catches up with him. (That’s part of the satisfaction.) All of this is less bombastic than, say, a movie like “Wall Street,” even if Jarecki occasionally pushes a moment too hard.
Among the wounded in Miller’s world are his trusting-but-not-stupid wife (Susan Sarandon) and a daughter (Brit Marling) who also helps run his empire. She’s beginning to figure out that the books might be cooked and that her adored dad might be, actually, a jerk.
Tim Roth adds an offbeat note as a police detective nosing around Miller’s world. He’s no simple good-guy hero, by any means.
And holding it together is the skilled work of Richard Gere, who is ideal for this. You can believe his looks and charm would have allowed Miller to skate through tricky situations throughout his life, and Gere suggests the shaky underpinnings beneath the bravado. Miller’s held it together for a long time, but now the bills are due.
“Arbitrage” (3 stars)
Richard Gere notches a fine performance as a Wall Street monster whose finances and personal life are both thrown out of balance over the course of a few tense days. Nicholas Jarecki’s film works as a twisty suspense piece, but also suggests a certain kind of 21st-century “success” story whose bogus priorities finally catch up with him.
Rated: R for language, subject matter.
Showing: Pacific Place, Seven Gables.