The Movie: Arbitrage at the Majestic Bay in Downtown Ballard.
The Screenplate: Arbitrage was written and directed by the son (Nicholas Jarecki) of a successful financier, and co-stars an actress (Brit Marling) who turned down a job at Goldman Sachs after completing an economics degree at Georgetown. Had it stuck to the portion of its plot involving economics, the movie might rival Margin Call in terms of focus and authenticity. Instead, it makes the mistake of letting a Madoff-like Richard Gere behind the wheel of his mistress' car. And if there's one thing inebriated athletes and celebrities have taught us, it's that really rich people should always hire a driver.
In fairness, Gere mostly adheres to this advice, as he spends a good portion of Arbitrage engaged in clandestine conversations in the back of limousines. But when, faced with an expiring hourglass on a financial charade that could bankrupt his firm and land him in prison, Gere decides it'd be a grand idea to escape to his vacation house upstate with his gallery girl on the side. Nothing else in the movie points to Gere's character acting so recklessly, and we're not talking about the (SPOILER ALERT!) fatal car crash that doubles the threat of incarceration.
These aren't even Arbitrage's least credible moments: Less plausible are a detective's (DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT!) evidence tampering and the fact that, when Gere's getaway driver/confidant tells him that Gere is mucking up his plans to open an Applebee's down south, Gere's response is "What's Applebee's?" We get that the guy enjoys a rarefied existence, but he doesn't literally live on a fluffy golden cloud, where chain restaurants don't exist for him to view with disdain out his tinted window. And because there's so much plot to plow through, relationships between key characters are universally underexplained or underveloped.
Trying to pack two complicated criminal plots into a feature film of standard lengh is, well, criminal. But that's not to say Arbitrage doesn't make for juicy entertainment. What are fictional films, after all, if not an escape from reality? The same goes for John Howie Steak, which oozes ultra-elite comfort in a manner which the Met dares not attempt. While trying to wriggle his way out of two felonies, John Howie is precisely the sort of place Richard Gere would instruct his driver to take him for a three-hour meal filled with fuckable (for him) bar candy, impeccable service, choice cuts of beef, $100 sips of Scotch, and some serious soul-searching high above a sea of interstate headlights. Just pray that Gere doesn't give his chauffeur the return trip off.