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‘Arbitrage’: Getting in Gere

This world of high finance grows complicated, but the star and his cast mates keep us fully engaged.

Brit Marling and Richard Gere star in "Arbitrage."

‘ARBITRAGE’

R, 1 hour, 40 min.Plot: A troubled hedge fund magnate desperate to complete the sale of his trading empire makes an error that forces him to turn to an unlikely person for help.

Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Brit Marling, Tim Roth

RICHARD GERE, OSCAR NOMINEE?

Hollywood is buzzing that “Arbitrage” might bring Richard Gere, 63, an Academy Award nomination — his first.

And yet throughout his career he has been surrounded by co-stars who get Oscar glory:

  • “An Officer and a Gentleman”: Gere is the Navy flight-school enrollee. As his tough drill sergeant, Louis Gossett Jr. won supporting actor.

  • “Pretty Woman”: He’s the poor rich guy who hires prostitute Julia Roberts to be his escort. She was nominated for best actress.

  • “Primal Fear”: He’s the attorney defending an altar boy (Edward Norton) accused of murdering an archbishop. Norton was nominated for supporting actor.

  • “Unfaithful”: He’s married to Diane Lane, who has an affair (and was nominated for best actress).

  • “Chicago”: He’s tap-dancing lawyer Billy Flynn. Gere’s four co-stars were all nominated (Catherine Zeta-Jones won supporting actress), and the film won best picture, too.

Sharon Hoffmann, shoffmann@kcstar.com

The Associated Press

Greed is good, until it isn’t anymore: That’s “Arbitrage,” a guilty-pleasure thriller for these tough economic times.

In directing his first feature, writer and documentarian Nicholas Jarecki shows great command of tone — a balance of sex, danger and manipulation with some insiderish business talk and a healthy sprinkling of dark humor to break up the tension.

His film is well-cast and strongly acted, and while it couldn’t be more relevant, it also recalls the decadence of 1980s Wall Street, shot in 35mm as it is, with a synth-heavy score from composer Cliff Martinez (who wrote similar music for “Drive”).

“Arbitrage” is a lurid look at a lavish lifestyle that allows us to cluck disapprovingly while still vicariously enjoying its luxurious trappings.

Richard Gere stars as Robert Miller, a billionaire hedge-fund magnate who, at the film’s start, is magnanimously sharing his wisdom in an interview with none other than CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo.

As he turns 60, Robert would seem to have it all — looks, wealth, a loving family and respect among his peers. And yet he always wants more, and he feels emboldened by the different set of rules and morals that seems to apply in his rarefied world.

So he “borrows” $417 million from a fellow tycoon to cover a hole in his portfolio and make his company look as stable as possible as it’s about to be acquired by a bank. This is otherwise known as fraud.

And despite the loyalty and support of his smart, beautiful wife (Susan Sarandon), he has a hot (and hot-headed) French mistress on the side (former Victoria’s Secret model Laetitia Casta) who runs in stylish, hard-partying art circles. (That’s another ’80s throwback: the blase coke consumption).

Both these schemes explode in his face over the course of a few fateful days. An audit of his firm has raised some red flags, making the potential buyer turn reluctant and evasive. This prompts the suspicions of his devoted daughter (Brit Marling, every bit Gere’s equal), who’s also the company’s chief financial officer and heir apparent.

But more immediately and dramatically, Robert is involved in a deadly accident that puts the police on his tail (Tim Roth plays the lead detective with a wonderfully thick New York accent) and requires him to enlist the help of a kid from Harlem (Nate Parker) who’s the son of his late, longtime chauffeur.

That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning at once; just the financial storyline alone could have sufficed without the affair messing things up further. What’s surprising about “Arbitrage” is that Jarecki never judges this man for the tricky position he’s gotten himself into, and never tries to steer our feelings toward him, either.

Gere is so charming, so irresistible when he’s on top of the world — when he’s got all those plates humming in unison — that he kind of makes you root for his character to get away with it all.

The film’s strong women don’t quite get enough to do until the third act, when Sarandon and Marling both have powerful showdowns with Gere.

(At the Leawood and Tivoli.)

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