Directed By: Nicholas Jarecki

Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Nate Parker, and Laetitia Casta

Well, I'm back.  While I've been gallivanting around Spain and Portugal, I didn't miss much based on what I've been reading.  The Words and The Cold Light of Day tanked from the start, and the box office suffered its worst weekend in nearly four years.  It sounds like I picked the right time to go on vacation.  Now that I'm back on the movie scene, the first item on my fall agenda is Nicholas Jarecki's Arbitrage, a powerful thriller about what a man will do to hold onto wealth and success.

Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is the head of Miller Capital, a successful hedge fund that has weathered the economic storm and somehow thrived in this tough environment.  To the public, he's a successful businessman, a loving husband, a caring father, and a giving philanthropist.  To those who know him personally, Miller is a little less miraculous and a little more relentless.  Now that he's turning 60, he's trying to sell the company he's built and spend more time with his wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and his kids Brooke (Brit Marling) and Peter (Austin Lysy).  There's just one issue.  The firm has lost more than $400 million over the last year, and he needs to make it look like an attractive purchase.  He's found a buyer in James Mayfield (Graydon Carter) and is looking to close the deal by pulling the veil over the eyes of Mayfield and his auditors.

As it stands, Miller is not a perfect family man.  Like most rich guys, he's got a girl on the side, an aspiring painter by the name of Julie (Laetitia Casta).  While he's been busy trying to close the sale of Miller Capital, Julie has been busy trying to launch her art career.  Because he's late to her art show and a very important night for her, Julie is furious.  To appease his mistress later that night, Miller offers to run off with her to one of his vacation homes up north.  She agrees, and they get in her car to drive off.  Miller is pretty tired after a long day and doses off at the wheel.  Before he knows it, Miller and Julie end up in a terrible accident, one that's lethal for Julie.

Miller escapes the totaled car before it explodes.  He covers up his involvement in the accident and ditches Julie's burning corpse.  He then calls on the only black guy he knows to get him out of this jam, Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker).  Jimmy drives him home, and Miller goes to bed as if everything is normal.  The next morning, he fixates on avoiding getting arrested for vehicular manslaughter while continuing to commit fraud to close his sale with Mayfield.  Avoiding any embarrassing legal troubles is paramount to a smooth deal where all parties are happy.

Director Nicholas Jarecki has really crafted something special in Arbitrage.  It's a solid, well-written movie that builds to a great ending.  It's a nonstop thrill ride that just keeps raising the stakes as the film progresses.  It's a film that's visceral, edgy, and old school all at the same time.  There's a raw energy to the film that's palpable.  While Jarecki uses the recent economic downturn as a backdrop for the movie, it really feels like something that could have been made in the late 90s.  The dark gritty cinematography, the inherent cynicism about corporate America, and the veteran talent on set all harken back to the good old days. 

Arbitrage is obviously all about Richard Gere and his character Robert Miller.  The veteran actor gives a gripping performance as the patriarch of the Miller clan.  Gere is playing the smartest guy in the room, and he's perfect for that.  He portrays a brilliant con artist who knows when to pull the veil over someone's eyes or simply when to kick some dirt in them.  While giving a powerhouse performance, Gere also manages to bring nuggets of comic relief to the movie, especially when sharing his thoughts on Applebee's.

While I definitely enjoyed Brit Marling and Tim Roth, the standouts among the supporting cast must be Susan Sarandon and Nate Parker.  As Miller's wife Ellen, Susan Sarandon steals the show.  For the most part, she plays a very maternal figure but also one who is very sharp and quite mysterious.  You don't quite know what cards she's holding, but you know it's building to a showdown with her husband.  When Sarandon finally goes toe to toe with Gere on screen, it's just movie magic, the kind that leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat.  As Miller's go-to guy Jimmy Grant, Nate Parker keeps it real throughout Arbitrage.  He brings a refreshing and comedic dose of reality to the film that reels Gere's character back to reality at times.  It's good to see Parker expanding his résumé after the awful Red Tails earlier this year.

Arbitrage is a film that probably won't get the attention it deserves.  That doesn't mean that you shouldn't check it out when you get the chance.  With a nimble screenplay that navigates the complexities of two gigantic problems in Miller's life, Nicholas Jarecki puts together a taut thriller that satisfies on all levels.  Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and the cast are all in top form in this tale that shows that money is the best alibi.  Arbitrage gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.