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Arbitrage - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
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They say that all the best writing is in TV these days and cinema
screenplays have lost their edge, but scripts don't get any better than Arbitrage, a shrewd and compelling study of dodgy business practices and even dodgier personal behaviour.

It's funny how sometimes you find yourself cheering on the screen villain, and it's safe to say many an audience member will be hoping Richard Gere gets away with all the shady machinations he sets into place in Arbitrage. The actor has had a rich and varied career but clearly his forte is playing slimy, amoral scum like Robert Miller. To be fair, this is no black and white portrayal of corruption - there's a pleasing complexity to Miller, with a fair amount of loyalty, responsibility and guilt that trouble him as he sinks deeper into a mire of crimes and misdemeanours.

Gere's is but one of a team of glowing performances, which include Susan Sarandon as the wife who knows more than she's letting on, Tim Roth as a dogged and resourceful detective and Brit Marling as the heiress to the family empire. But the real star is the script, economically cramming oodles of nuance and subtext while motoring along at a brisk clip. Many scenes zing with a sharp mix of wit and drama.

At first Arbitrage feels like its going to be a morality tale as we watch Gere, the smooth operator, setting dodgy business deals into action while carrying on an extra-marital affair, but this is not a film that sets out to sermonise. It's an engrossing look at the choices people make when forced into compromising situations, offering an array of complex characters, all with their own moral compass and agenda. Throw in the cinematographer of I Am Love and the composer of Drive and you have an aural and visual treat to behold.

It's a credit to writer/director Nicholas Jorecki that before you know it, the closing credits are on the screen and all you want is for the film to keep going.

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Why? Richard Gere at his slimy, charming best
Where: At cinemas everywhere
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