Arbitrage – the nearly simultaneous purchase and sale of securities or foreign exchange in different markets in order to profit from price discrepancies.
“Robert Miller” (Gere) runs an investment firm in New York City that is about to be purchased by a bank run by “James Mayfield” (Carter). Except Mayfield isn’t quite ready to close the deal. But it is unclear why, and that’s what Miller wants his minions to uncover.
He’s a busy guy, running his empire, doing good works with the foundation he started with his wife, “Ellen” (Sarandon). Oh yes, he also has a mistress “Julie” (Casta), who he keeps happy by paying the rent on her apartment, and investing in her art gallery.
We also discover that he is extremely desperate to close the sale of his firm because he’s playing games to make the firm look ‘right’ for the sale on paper, even though it has suffered hundreds of millions in losses in a speculative investment that went bad.
Miller has just flown back to NYC after Mayfield refused to meet with him or sign the deal and worse yet, it’s his birthday. So he has to go to the family gathering with his wife, children and grandchildren and then later pretend to go to the office so he can celebrate with Julie the mistress and her gallery opening.
Except that Mayfield’s people schedule a meeting for that very night to close the deal. It makes him late for the opening, and Miller gets into a fight with Julie. This ultimately leads to a fatal accident, sparking a police investigation by “Detective Bryer” (Roth) who is willing to go to any lengths bring Miller down.
Writer/director Jarecki resolves all of these threads with clever ease, save one very critical issue. He then leaves it up to the audience to decide what happened with one deal. Would he sign? Did he try to make a better deal? Would he call what he perceives as a bluff by the other party in the deal? The film will leave you pondering that question.
Gere is superb. He usually brings a quality of “anger” to his performances and with Arbitrage he manages to keep that restrained, but very present. A quick trigger is what one might expect from a man who manages a firm that controls hundreds of millions in other peoples’ money, when he doesn’t get everything he wants, instantly.
Sarandon is very good as his long-suffering wife who may know a lot more about what her man is doing, but just didn’t care as long as they lived well. It is also nice to see Margolin given a role where there is something for him to do other than be a comic foil. Roth is great as the cop who will cross the line to get the suspect he’s convinced did the deed.
The imagery of New York City fits perfectly in and around the events of this story, and the film has a very realistic ‘feel’ to it.