The latest in a string of dramas echoing real-life scandals and crimes lurking on the back street of Wall Street, “Arbitrage” is a tense thriller about love, loyalty, and finance.
Starring Richard Gere, Nate Parker and Nate Parker, the story follows Gere’s character Robert Miller, a billionaire who is caught in a trap after a lapse in judgment. He’s embezzled millions to cover up risky deals, and is hiding the accidental death of his mistress. Parker plays a former connection from his past and is the only one he can trust.
As the film begins, we meet Miller (Gere) on the eve of his 60th birthday demonstrating his clout while conducting an interview with a major television network. A portrait of success, he’s suave, charming and sophisticated. But behind the smokescreen, Miller is in over his head, and is desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire to a major bank before the depths of his fraud are revealed. Struggling to conceal his deception from wife played by Susan Sarandon, Miller's also juggling an affair with French art-dealer Julie Côte (Laetitia Casta). Just as he's about to unload his troubled empire, an incident which forces him to call on the aid of an old friend Jimmy (Parker) occurs. As things escalate, Miller finds himself in a serious bind and the only person who can help him is Jimmy.
The directorial debut of Nicholas Jarecki, “Arbitrage” is a smart thriller. Gere delivers a powerful portrayal of a conflicted man who uses his wealth to make his own rules, although best of all is Parker, whose character Jimmy plays a torn figure who knows Miller’s destructive secret and must decide if he should put his own interest ahead of loyalty. Escalating stakes allow for a multifaceted portrait of how each of the power players responds to a moral and logistical dilemma.
At one stage Parker's character asks: "You think money is gonna fix this?" To which Robert replies: "What else is there?"
“It's a very complex part,” shares Jarecki. “They know each other and have shared a past experience that has deep resonance and now they are very much in each other's lives again in a pressure cooker situation where Jimmy goes on the line for Robert."
Parker, who received critical attention for his starring role in “The Great Debaters” opposite Denzel Washington, credits a brilliant screenplay for his decision to join the cast. “I read a lot of scripts with parts for African American men and only two out of 40 are actually representing us in a way that's positive.” To prepare for his role, he spent time with a kid from a program he works with in Brooklyn for underserved communities who reminded him of the character. "We just talked and talked about Brooklyn and the streets -- what's going on here? What are the struggles of the lifestyle? He was as a really great help to get me there," says the Virginia native whose movies include “Red Tails” and “The Secret Life of Bees.”
With great pacing and carefully crafted performances, “Arbitrage” is a methodical and absorbing thriller.