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Hedge-fund manager Robert Miller has power, wealth, a long-term wife, and a devoted daughter and heir, but his closely guarded perfect life could be destroyed if his secret investment fraud is revealed, as well as his complicity in a fatal late-night car crash.
For more about Arbitrage and the Arbitrage Blu-ray release, see Arbitrage Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 18, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Richard Gere, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Susan Sarandon, William Friedkin, Laetitia Casta
Director: Nicholas Jarecki
» See full cast & crew
Arbitrage Blu-ray Review
Oh, what a tangled web we weave. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 18, 2012
Part of the fun of subscribing to trade papers like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter is watching the sometimes hyperbolic ad campaigns that various studios mount to garner various award nominations, whether those be from critics' fests, regional fetes, or bigger kahunas like The Golden Globes or The Academy Awards. One of the biggest campaigns currently running is centered around Richard Gere in Arbitrage, noting the fact that this actor has never even been nominated for an Oscar before, let alone won one, and that his character in this film has provided him with one of his better latter day opportunities. Gere essays a role that is in some ways a very bizarre amalgamation of Bernie Madoff and Ted Kennedy (yes, you read that right), depicting a duplicitous and highly successful businessman who has not only built his fortune on massive deceit (read: Madoff) but then has the temerity to get his mistress killed in a horrific car accident, trying to cover up his involvement in the tragedy lest it affect his career (read: Kennedy). The word "arbitrage" is bandied about with relative frequency these days, but many probably have little idea of what the term actually means. It has several meanings, but in a way all of them relate to "gaming the system" to make a quick and easy profit (economists and brokers are no doubt warming up their typing fingers to dash off a rude email to me, but I think the essence of a very technical situation is captured in that description). Gere's character Robert Miller is in fact so used to gaming the system that in a way he has come to assume that the game is the system, and that's where the suspense and drama of this interesting if not always credible film resides.
Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is the sort of billionaire who hasn't just built a house of cards, he's constructed a veritable skyscraper, one that has landed him on the cover of Forbes and made him the toast of New York, but which is threatening to crumble at virtually every turn. Miller is desperately seeking to close a sale of his firm before some of his underhanded dealings are discovered. Many are familiar with the idea of "kiting" a check, but Miller has taken this concept to heretofore unimagined heights, borrowing some $400 million from a business partner to cover a huge investment loss, money that is now being demanded by its rightful owner with Miller's prospective buyer still dragging his feet on closing the deal.
As if that weren't enough trouble for any mild mannered billionaire to be dealing with, Miller, despite having a beautiful wife named Ellen (Susan Sarandon) who fills her days doing charitable work around The Big Apple, is having an affair with an emotionally tempestuous struggling artist named Julie (Laetitia Casta). Julie is not content to always be Miller's recourse of convenience, and after an emotional breakdown one evening, Miller suggests they drive to one of his vacation houses upstate to spend a quiet evening together. Unfortunately on the way, Miller falls asleep at the wheel and rolls the car, with Julie getting killed in the process.
That's when the second act of this film takes a rather weird but satisfying left turn into cat and mouse thriller territory as a Columbo-esque police detective named Bryer (Tim Roth) gets involved in investigating the mysterious circumstances of Julie's death. The police almost instantaneously track down Jimmy (Nate Parker), the hapless African American youth Miller called collect to come pick him up after the accident. Jimmy's family has a long history with the Miller organization, but Jimmy himself has a prior felony conviction which means the cops find him an easy target to lean on for information. In the meantime, Miller meets with his longtime confidante, attorney Syd Felder (Stuart Margolin), discussing "hypotheticals" about how "someone" should handle a situation like the one Miller has found himself ensnared in. Playing out in the background of all this drama is the fact that Miller's daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) has discovered some extremely odd entries in her family's company's books and is launching into a fact finding mission, something that comes at exactly the wrong time for Miller for a variety of reasons.
Some might be tempted to compare Arbitrage to last year's Margin Call, a film many seemed to think was some kind of undiscovered masterpiece but which I personally found fitfully entertaining at best. The major problem I had with Margin Call was its over utilization of highly technical jargon which few "outsiders" were going to firmly understand, something that made a lot of the central drama of the piece a little hard to follow at times. There was also a maddening tendency not to explain anything at all, as if the viewer would just automatically intuit the ins and outs of high stakes investment banking. What's fascinating about Arbitrage is that it deals in much the same territory but doesn't rely even one whit on an understanding of what's going on financially to make sense out of the plot. This may be due to the fact that there's the unfortunate death of the mistress which becomes the fulcrum around which so much of the plot hinges, but even the purely technical side of the fraud perpetrated by Miller, which does have an "insider" edge to it, is handled with clarity and precision, making Miller's predicament virtually palpable.
In a couple of other salient ways, however, Arbitrage and Margin Call do indeed share some linkage. Both are formidable feature dramatic film debuts by first time writer-directors, though I personally would give the edge to Arbitrage's Nicholas Jarecki over Margin Call's J.C. Chandor in both categories. Jarecki not only has an ear for dialogue, unlike Chandor he's able to pare extremely technical issues down to their absolute core, making them viscerally impactful if not perfectly understandable. There's also another, perhaps less obvious, connection between the two films. Though it's not really given much screen time, Margin Call has an important subplot dealing at least tangentially with the ruined marriage between the Kevin Spacey character and his ex-wife, played by Mary McDonnell. In what turns out to be yet another screenwriting sleight of hand on the part of Jarecki in Arbitrage, Sarandon's Ellen, who has been shunted both literally and figuratively to the sidelines as her husband's life implodes, suddenly has (to use stage parlance) an "eleven o'clock showstopper" when she rises from the emotional ashes to utterly take center stage. She isn't being touted as heavily as Gere for an Oscar nomination, but Sarandon, too, may find herself in that golden circle of nominees in a couple of months for this brief scene alone.
Arbitrage Blu-ray, Video Quality
Arbitrage is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. I never saw Arbitrage in its theatrical exhibition and so cannot offer an opinion about how accurately this transfer recreates the original look of the film, but I was just mildly surprised at how overly soft a lot of the interior sequences (by far the bulk of the film) seemed to be, especially in darker environments like the inside of limousines or the shaded confines of the Millers' palatial bedroom. Contrast in these moments isn't overwhelmingly strong, either. If you can get past those two perhaps niggling qualms, the rest of this high definition presentation looks quite sharp and well detailed indeed. Close-ups (of which there are many) bristle with fine detail, colors are accurate and some of the exterior shots in and around Manhattan look fantastic and exhibit no stability problems whatsoever.
Note: This is one of the most maddeningly authored Lionsgate Blu-ray discs I've encountered, and is in fact the first time any Lionsgate title I've personally reviewed has exhibited these anomalies. Not only are the six (count 'em) previews unskippable, my PS3 repeatedly gave me a "There is no Top Menu" prompt when I kept trying to access the menu, which is normally immediately accessible on Lionsgate titles. Add to this fact that several of the previews are in different resolutions and added loading time takes place between each of them. Rather interestingly, a Top Menu does indeed show up ultimately, though as you're playing the film, there once again is no Top Menu available, and in fact hitting Pop Up Menu only gives you the option to access the so-called Main Menu (i.e., there's no way to get to subtitles or special features). Hopefully Lionsgate will go back to its old practice, as this was definitely annoying in the extreme.
Arbitrage Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Arbitrage's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is a purposefully low key, deliberately restrained mix that features some good but subtle surround activity, especially with regard to Cliff Martinez's brooding minimalist score. There are brief explosions of surround activity in some crowd scenes (like the art gallery Miller visits) and one really devastating piece of LFE when the car goes tumbling down the freeway. Dialogue is very cleanly presented as is occasionally quite nicely directional as well. Due to the nature of Arbitrage, this isn't a very "showy" mix, but it's very nuanced and well done, with excellent fidelity and decent dynamic range.
Arbitrage Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Arbitrage Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I was sort of half expecting Arbitrage to be another "weighty" drama a la Margin Call, but for me personally this outing with duplicitous high rollers on Wall Street was a much more satisfying, exciting experience. Part of this is due to the fact that Jarecki is working in several idioms simultaneously, and the cat and mouse game that takes up the central act of the film adds a nice thriller element to the proceedings that Margin Call never had (nor obviously tried to have). Probably also helping this film is the fact that it has one central character, one of the most fascinatingly shaded characters in recent memory, and one whom Gere brings vividly to smarmily elegant life. Sarandon is also a marvel, as is a largely game supporting cast (I was little unenthused by Tim Roth's Peter Falk impersonation, but your mileage may vary). Greed has never been better. Highly recommended.
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Arbitrage Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: December 24-31 - December 23, 2012
With the holidays in full swing this week, the studios aren't releasing any Blu-rays on Tuesday, so this This Week on Blu-ray highlights four titles from December 21st and December 31st. December 21st brings William Friedkin's Killer Joe. Adapted from Tracy Letts' ...
• Arbitrage Blu-ray - October 8, 2012
Lionsgate Films has officially announced that it will release on Blu-ray director Nicholas Jarecki's thriller Arbitrage (2012), starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, and Brit Marling. The release will be available for purchase on December 21.
Arbitrage Blu-ray Screenshots
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