20/02/2013

Film Review: Arbitrage

ArbitrageArbitrage is a film that makes you realise how times have changed. Remember this old joke:

MAN1: "What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?"
MAN2: "I don't know, what do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?
MAN1: "A good start."

That classic comes from a time when we hated lawyers. Arbitrage is about our new hatred, bankers. Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a hedge fund manager who is doing what we all think hedge fund managers do, lying and cheating. He's busy selling his hedge fund for way more than it's worth because he's fiddled the books. No surprise so far, he is a banker after all. So far this plot isn't even as bad as an RBS training manual.

But he's been cheating on his wife too. There's a young art dealer and he's been putting his fund in her hedge or something like that. He and his mistress are in a car crash. She is killed and his response it to go with his strengths. He lies some more.

The bulk of the film is the frantic work Mr Miller puts in to stopping his own-made tangled web from unravelling and the passion with which Detective Bryer (played by Tim Roth) wants to nail the banker.

Richard Gere has still got it. Even with his advancing age his performance holds the screen. OK, you wouldn't expect him to pick up a woman like in his An Officer and a Gentleman days, without making a groaning sound.

It's an interesting plot built from all the deceit and covering up, and it's biggest accomplishment is that you actually start to feel sorry for the character. This is a banker (someone that the media loves to hate), a philanderer (someone that we all love to hate) and a murderer (which also frowned upon). And yet there are many moments when you want him to get away with it.

He lies and cheats and yet is also good, and the police lie and cheat, yet are also good. The film is an essay on the mid-tones that stop the world being black and white.

One problem I have when I watch a film is that I really let the situations affect me and I think about how I would react if it were to happen to me. After watching Arbitrage I now know what I'd do if I ever accidentally killed a mistress of mine. Information I hope not to use, but heck, it's good to be prepared*.

[Arbitrage is released on March 1st 2013]

* What would I do if I accidentally killed a mistress? I'd confess straight away, of course. I say that because if ever I'm a suspect in a murder the first thing they'll do is Google me, and I don't want an intricate plan left sitting on the web. I've seen Arbitrage but I've also seen the Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones film Wilt.

Here's the trailer...

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