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Originally published Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 3:00 PM

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'Arbitrage': Sleek thriller showcases a silky-smooth Richard Gere

"Arbitrage," directed by Nicholas Jarecki and starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, is a sleek thriller that nicely showcases Gere's talent for melting into his surroundings. The film is playing at several Seattle area theaters.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Arbitrage,' with Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker. Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki. 100 minutes. Rated R for language, brief violent images and drug use. Several theaters.

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MOVIE REVIEW 3 stars

An efficient, sleek little thriller, Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage" is a fine showcase for the silky talents of Richard Gere, who's so smooth here you could spread him on toast. It's hard to think of another actor with such effortless, easy charm, with a way of seeming to melt into his surroundings. As Manhattan billionaire Robert Miller, he glides through a hushed world of private planes, black-licorice limousines, glowing wood floors, deliciously expensive-looking light — barely seeming to touch the floor.

But that ease is hiding a rather complicated personal life. Robert has an elegant wife of three decades, Ellen (Susan Sarandon), and a much-younger artist mistress, Julie (Laetitia Casta), both of whom appear to love him. At work, Robert presides over a hedge-fund empire with his brilliant daughter Brooke (Brit Marling, every bit as beautiful as you'd imagine the daughter of Gere and Sarandon to be). But there's disaster brewing there: Robert, unbeknown to Brooke, has been playing with numbers, and the upcoming Wall Street implosion will surely bring his fraud to light.

The financial side of "Arbitrage" feels familiar; it's similar territory to that explored last year by "Margin Call." But writer/director Jarecki, in his feature debut, adds another twist: Something terrible and tragic happens outside the office, early in the film. Though it's an accident, Robert chooses to conceal it rather than face it, turning for help to the one person he knows who's handled adversity (a young man named Jimmy, played by Nate Parker). But soon a dogged NYPD detective (Tim Roth) is sniffing around, and Robert's easy smile begins to look just the tiniest bit hollow.

Jarecki and the cast fill "Arbitrage" with small, telling details: the personal assistant who wears Christian Laboutin shoes; the way Ellen breezily tells the cop to "make an appointment" if he wants to talk to her, confident that no problem can touch her; the detective's enjoyable way of dragging out his words like they're being scraped across gravel, in contrast to the patrician delivery of Robert and his family. It's a tale of a rich man gradually realizing that the insulation with which he's surrounded himself is slowly and irrevocably unraveling, leaving little else behind.

"You think money's going to fix this?" asks Jimmy, late in the film. Replies Robert, all too easily, "What else is there?"

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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