We know who and what Robert Miller is the moment Richard Gere brings the character into the frame in the new thriller Arbitrage. Hes a player, a business titan, a guy for whom the rules of the normal world dont apply.
He has his own high-end hedge fund firm, his prominent place within New York society, a socially prominent wife (Susan Sarandon) and a daughter (Brit Marling) who will inherit the business someday.
Hes also living the limo life on the back of shady bookkeeping, and keeping an art dilettante as a mistress. Because he can.
Tom Wolfe famously labeled them Masters of the Universe, the Wall Street gamblers whose sense of invincibility, entitlement and general recklessness brought the worlds economy to ruin a few years back. But Geres Miller becomes more than a type the moment he wrecks the car with the mistress in it, and then runs away.
Theres a crime to cover up as he struggles to keep the balls hes juggling in the air.
And its not just about him.
I have responsibilities, he says. People rely on me.
But is he rich and cunning enough to avoid responsibility for a death he caused, for a company he brought to ruin?
First-time writer-director Nicholas Jarecki (he adapted the Bret Easton Ellis novel The Informers for the screen) builds an elaborate, interconnected world for Miller to duck and weave through. His wife might wonder why the check for her favorite charity is late, but since she hasnt discovered the affair, pulling one over on her could be easy. The smart, business-minded daughter is another matter.
Then, theres the one person Miller calls for help in the dead of night. Nate Parker plays the outsider, the young black man with a police record whom Miller knows, for reasons that only become clear later. He thinks this guy will be discrete.
And with a cop (Tim Roth) sniffing around the charred remains of the mistress car, discretion and a sneaky lawyer (Rockford Files vet Stuart Margolin) are paramount in Millers mind.
Or would be, if the Feds werent investigating his company, if he wasnt in desperate need of a merger/ sale to go through that will redeem him, at least in a financial sense.
From Parkers perplexed blend of obligation and fear over the lies this man expects him to tell, to Sarandons raised eyebrow of suspicion, a gesture neatly mirrored by Marling, playing her daughter, Arbitrage sells on this story, this concept. The mild-mannered and passive Marling (Another Earth and Sound of My Voice) becomes the voice of indignation as Millers elaborate web starts to unravel.
Gere, ever-equivocating, lets us see the wheels turning in this wheeler-dealer. Its a fascinating performance that whips us between sympathy and appreciation for the crook who might get away with it, and fury that another member of the 1 percent might escape.