Arbitrage spins a tale of financial woe from an insider’s point of view. Unlike last year’s excellent Margin Call, Arbitrage opens its field beyond leverage firms and hedge funds to really become a movie about adultery, possible homicide and corruption by people in high places. Another current release Cosmopolis also delves into Wall St. machinations only to use the format to explore deeper sublime subjects.

Richard Gere, likeable but hiding a secret, has added a bogus $400-million on the books trying to prop up his company for a large sale. A character that’s introduced about 30-minutes in, a tough walking NYC detective played with finesse by Tim Roth, wants to take Gere down, even if he has to commit his own brand of fraud. Supporting cast includes Susan Sarandon (commanding) and Brit Marling as Gere’s family, along with Chris Eigeman, Stuart Margolin, and Nate Parker. Graydon Carter (Vanity Fair editor) also shows up playing another rich dude, which seems appropriate given the specificity of his character’s motivation.

Rather than spill the beans on specific plot points (that are better left unrevealed) suffice it to say that Gere is having an affair, gets involved in a car crash, and brings in the son of his ex-chauffeur to help him cover up a potential crime. What Arbitrage wants to do is examine the mindset of a financial wrongdoer while subsequently adding a second layer of traditional mystery suspense.

For the most part Arbitrage pays off in occasionally surprising ways (like the interaction between Roth and Sarandon/Gere), but mostly in an established manner. Here’s the thing: a crucial aspect of the movie is a car crash (that may involve criminal charges), yet there’s no way that falling asleep at the wheel and the car (70’s Mercedes) sideswiping a guard rail would cause said car to flip and roll out of control. It’s called truth and Arbitrage finds that element in the family relations and the economic gravity of the players, but not in the car stunts.

— Michael Bergeron