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09/13/2012 09:52 am ET Updated Nov 13, 2012

Review: Arbitrage

"Family -- it's what really matters," says Robert Miller (Richard Gere), or words to that effect, to a gathering in his posh Fifth Avenue townhouse that includes his wife (Susan Sarandon), grown children, grandchildren and friends, who have assembled to celebrate his 60th birthday.

So, in Nicholas Jarecki's entertaining, if slightly schematic, Arbitrage, it's only fitting that, in the very next scene, there's Miller, nuzzling the neck of his French mistress Julie (former Victoria's Secret model Laetitia Casta).

Message: Nothing is what it seems in this guy's life. That's true not only of his personal life but of his professional dealings. Because, as this film starts, Miller is glad-handing people about the imminent sale of his investment firm -- when, in fact, the deal is being delayed by the guy who wants to buy it while he runs the numbers one more time.

Even more crucial, Miller needs this deal and fast: His books mask a $400 million shortfall which only the sale can make whole again. Miller, as it turns out, is a juggler, robbing Peter to pay Paul, staying one step ahead of the auditors, his creditors, his family -- and, perhaps, himself.

But it all threatens to come crashing down one night. Held up at a business dinner to finalize the sale -- a dinner at which the deal never comes to fruition -- he's late to a major gallery opening that Julie is overseeing. To placate his angry mistress, he tells her he'll take her away -- and then sets off with her in his Mercedes. All of the tension has taken its toll, however -- and when he dozes at the wheel, his car hits the median and flips, killing Julie.

Miller himself seems to have suffered internal injuries -- but he drags himself out of the car, which is upside down on a deserted road in the middle of the night. He abandons the car and the girl and escapes into the woods. He finds a phone booth and makes a call to a young black man, Jimmy (Nate Parker), who comes and picks him up.

Has he left evidence of his presence in the car? Can he be connected to this death? Can he keep it at arms' length long enough to get his company sold?

This review continues on my website.

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