This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 28th October 2012
Arbitrage fancies itself as a thriller and, with its urgent, pumping electronica music and flashy city lights, it initially evokes modern classics of yesteryear such as Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Perhaps seeing megastars from that era, Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, also allows us to hope, but sadly, when all is said and done (and my, what a lot of saying and doing nothing there is), Arbitrage is neither thrilling nor flashy.
Gere plays an unlikeable billionaire financier who finds himself in commercial trouble of his own making, and then in a romantic bother (also purely his fault) that ends in a mess he seeks to buy his way out of. You normally need a protagonist you can root for, however dubious their morals are, but Gere plays it more Donald Trump than Patrick Bateman. Governed simply by greed and pride, his character is a disappointingly empty vessel.
Sarandon has the odd feisty moment, but is as let down as everyone else by perfunctory scripting that dishonours her Oscar-winning abilities. Then there’s Tim Roth, the obligatory cop who’s sure there’s more to this than meets the eye, his “Noo Yawk” accent so laidback that he spends most of his scenes literally lying down.
There are even cameos by a sullen French model and, strangely, Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair magazine, presumably to boost the credibility of luxuriousness.
Ironically, in the financial world, arbitrage is all about making a profit as quickly and cheaply as possible. The limos and chintzy chandeliers would suggest this film was far from cheap, but the laziness with which it was created and executed may make you feel as if you’ve being taken for a fool.