At the Movies: Arbitrage and Rage at Resident Evil

For the past 10 years I have sat through four movies which encompassed roughly eight years of my life watching brave, poor Alice struggle to bring down the evil Umbrella Corporation and stop the deadly T-Virus. I didn’t complain because for some reason I strangely enjoy the “Resident Evil” movies.

So I was all ready to catch the latest installment — “Resident Evil: Retribution” when I got the following notice: NO SCREENINGS PLANNED.

What’s up with that, Screen Gems? You string me along for 10 years and four movies and then deny me access to this one? The one where you bring back Jill Valentine? That’s so wrong. I even gave high marks to the last one’s 3D — and I rarely say good things about 3D.

Fine, I’ll just wait a few years for it to show up on FX. Check back with me then. At least I have Judge Dredd to look forward to next week.

Also opening this week: “Finding Nemo,” this time in 3D. I was one of the few people who didn’t love “Nemo,” although I do love the virtual aquarium gimmick that came with the DVD, so I had no interest in seeing it in three dimensions.

Also also opening this week: “For a Good Time Call,” a movie I saw described somewhere as “for people who loved ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Sex and the City.'” Oh joy. And this movie they bothered to screen. I didn’t bother to see it.

Which brings us at long last to “Arbitrage,” a clever thriller anchored by a compelling performance by Richard Gere.

Gere stars as Robert Miller, a wealthy businessman seemingly on top of the world as he turns 60. He has a loving family, a lovely mistress and he’s about to sell the family business for several million dollars.

It’s all a sham. A bad investment has left a $400 million hole in his company’s books. He’s borrowed money from a friend to plug the hole and worked the system to hide the truth from the potential buyer. If he can make the sale by week’s end all will be well.

But then a fatal car crash makes Miller’s life far more complicated. Rather than stay and face the consequences, he calls for help from Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), a young man in Harlem who owes Miller a debt. Grant gives Miller a ride home with no knowledge of what has happened.

Phone records lead Detective¬†Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) to Grant’s doorstep, but the young man refuses to cooperate. Miller finds himself squeezed by two difficult situations — his business shenanigans threaten his financial security while his personal lapses threaten to take away his freedom — or those of an innocent man.

Nicholas Jarecki makes his feature film directorial debut with “Arbitrage” and it’s an impressive start. The movie ratchets up the tension methodically and Gere does fine work as Miller strives to stay in control. The rest of the cast delivers strong performances as well but this is really Gere’s turn to shine.

The movie’s title and the fact that it explores complex financial dealings may turn off some potential viewers (it almost kept me away, but then the alternative was “For A Good Time Call”) but the story doesn’t get too caught up in the intricacies of high finance. I didn’t understand the details of what was going on with the business, but it didn’t really matter. “Arbitrage” is more a crime thriller and character piece.

 

 

 

 

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