It’s easy to miss what Richard Gere, even better these days as a silver fox, has done well for so long. (His wince-into-a-realisation chuckle was parodied by Steve Coogan in The Trip, one hopes affectionately.) Since 1980’s stylish American Gigolo, Gere has tried to undermine his good looks with anxiety: a proto-Gosling. But with the business-wonky Arbitrage, the actor arrives at his finest balance to date between his natural ease and a skittering, internal ruination.
The role is one of these hedge-fund lions, a private-jet-cruising smoothy who, in the logic of a vaguely preposterous script, is embezzling millions to cover up risky deals and hiding the accidental highway death of his mistress, having fled the crime scene. Amazingly, Gere keeps it all together, via a kind of seething anti-rage that speaks reams to the character’s survival instincts. Sex, wealth, paternal swagger – all of the colours come out of Gere in a showstopping performance.
Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki (the brother of two fine documentarians), the movie has just enough glitz to wander into the satiric neighbourhood of high Tom Wolfe, but centrally, it’s a story about margin manipulations and buttoned-down lawyering, far from a thriller. Still, the film zings along like one, and you turn to a pair of highlights on the side: Susan Sarandon’s half-snowed wife, due for payback, and the particularly vulnerable Brit Marling (Sound of My Voice), playing a daughter headed for disillusionment.