“Arbitrage”: Richard Gere's Amoral Hero Walks a Moral Tightrope

Slick and grown-up as Richard Gere himself, this intricate fiscal thriller takes a bead on extreme privilege, with Gere's Madoff-like billionaire fund-runner scrambling to keep his personal empire from crumbling. He has everything, including a loving family, a hot French girlfriend (Laetitia Casta) and that warm umber lighting only the wealthy can afford, until he doesn't — with the sale of his company for nine figures already jeopardized by cooked books, a car wreck and warm corpse get him scrambling one step ahead of the cops. Director Nicholas Jarecki (of those Jareckis) slices his cake and has it, too: We bizarrely empathize with the amoral hero's stressed-out tightrope walk, wanting him to get away with being an untouchable plutocratic scumbag, while the film simultaneously limns the rank injustices money can buy in bulk. Everything, as the title suggests, is negotiable. In fact, sometimes Jarecki's ethical needle wavers and seems to side with Gere's weasel, but that might be because the actor (looking by now like the squinty twin of Bill Maher) is so convincing, and the safety net of supporting perfs around him (wife Susan Sarandon, lawyer Stuart Margolin, Harlem innocent Nate Parker) is so tight. Tim Roth, as a mannered Columbo-ish detective, might seem out of place, but otherwise, the movie has the vibrations of firsthand knowledge.

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