Combustible Celluloid
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With: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Tim Roth, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker, Stuart Margolin, Chris Eigeman, Graydon Carter, Bruce Altman, Larry Pine, Curtiss Cook, Reg E. Cathey, Felix Solis, Tibor Feldman
Written by: Nicholas Jarecki
Directed by: Nicholas Jarecki
MPAA Rating: R for language, brief violent images and drug use
Running Time: 100
Date: 01/21/2012

Arbitrage (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cash and Burn

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director Nicholas Jarecki makes his feature debut with this refreshing movie, a combination of intelligent, grownup writing and entertaining, audience-pleasing filmmaking. The movie focuses on well-drawn, mature characters making emotionally truthful decisions, but at the same time, they face some very tense, larger-than-life situations.

Hedge fund tycoon Robert Miller (Richard Gere) has made some bad deals, and is secretly trying to sell his company before it goes under. He desperately does not want his wife (Susan Sarandon) or his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) -- who works for him -- knowing about the trouble. After work, he goes to see his mistress (Laetitia Casta), who dies in a horrible car crash when Robert falls asleep at the wheel. He decides to leave the scene, hoping to avoid any more negative attention. But a relentless police detective (Tim Roth) has Miller pegged and seems determined to try anything to get a conviction. Meanwhile, Miller's entire defense hinges on a young man named Jimmy (Nate Parker), with yet another secret connection to Miller.

Oddly, most of the movie's scenes are built around character interactions; there are only a handful of "thrill" moments, and no chase scenes. This allows for very intense, focused performances, especially by Richard Gere as the tormented lead, but also by Susan Sarandon as his wise wife. Up-and-comer Brit Marling has a few powerful scenes with Gere, challenging his authority, and Tim Roth is relentless and ferocious as the detective. The movie's main drawback, however, is that it feels like it could have gone further in either direction; it might have benefited from either more depth, or more thrills.

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