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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Bruce Altman

12 and Holding (2005)

Small towns are way too weird.

Jacob and Rudy (Conor Donovan) are identical twins, in terms of the way they look and sound (sort of), but they are different in their own ways. Rudy is far more outgoing and considered “the golden child”, whereas Jacob, mostly due to a birthmark covering a large portion of his face, is forced to mostly stay indoors and keep to himself. However, they both get along well enough to where they spend as much time together and even build a tree-house, for them and all their friends to hang. But disaster strikes one night when, after messing with some bullies, the tree-house is lit on fire, with Rudy inside, trapping him and, as a result, killing him. Now, it’s up to Jacob to take most of the attention from his brother and he uses that attention to make a name for himself. Meanwhile, Leonard (Jesse Camacho), another friend, is overweight and trying to lose it all, while Malee (Zoe Weizenbaum) tries to befriend an adult named Gus (Jeremy Renner), who is in town and doesn’t quite know what to make of this new friendship, as inappropriate as it may be.

Uh, like step away?

12 and Holding is another odd movie from the likes of writer/director Michael Cuesta and I mean that in the best way possible. Granted, compared to his debut, L.I.E., 12 and Holding doesn’t quite hit the same emotional notes, but it’s still interesting in that it focuses on a small, core group of people, gives them some development, a sense of conflict, and allows their stories to just be told to us. Sure, the stories don’t always work, but at least Cuesta’s trying something, right?

Well, yes. And no. Sort of.

See, one of the issues with 12 and Holding is that it tries a lot harder to be an outright comedy this go around, unlike L.I.E., that was far more serious and disturbing. There’s still that sense of dirt and grit here, but not nearly as in-your-face as it was with Cuesta’s debut; this time around, the disturbing-features are played up more for cringe-inducing and awkward laughs. Occasionally, Cuesta will hit a high spot for comedy, but often times, it can feel as if he’s maybe trying a tad too hard, as if the material itself wasn’t, on the surface, funny enough.

Which is odd to say, I know, considering that in the first 15 minutes, a kid literally gets burned-to-death, but still, you can tell Cuesta is going for the darker-laughs this time around and he doesn’t always hit his mark. He does develop these characters and give them enough to work with, however, he also can’t help but give us the occasional quirk, too. It would have helped if these quirks were, at some point, funny, but they aren’t and because of that, it can feel straining.

“So, how’s the food?”

That said, the drama still works and had the movie just been with that, then yeah, it probably would have been a slam-dunk.

If there’s one thing that Cuesta gets right, is the small-town, suburban malaise that, in a way, American Beauty dealt with. Sure, that movie did it a whole lot better and effortlessly, but 12 and Holding does something interesting in that it shows how grief messes with each and everyone of us, regardless of if we are willing to accept it or not. Cuesta shows that we all deal with it on our own terms and because of that, we act out in somewhat rather outlandish and insane ways; we can’t really diagnose it, or even excuse it, as it’s just in our human nature.

If anything, 12 and Holding is much more sad and depressing than anything, and had the movie focused on this much more, it would have been better. However, it didn’t and it dealt with comedy a tad too much. Still, the ensemble is pretty great with nearly all of the child and adult-performers putting in solid work. Perhaps the most shining star in the whole thing is Zoe Weizenbaum as Malee, the incredibly curious and sexually vivacious teen that makes a good half of this movie pretty uncomfortable. However, she’s so charming and lovely to watch, with Renner’s Gus helping out, too, that it makes these scenes go down a lot easier.

Not like L.I.E., of course, Nothing can quite be as disturbing and as off-putting as that.

Consensus: Uneven to a fault, 12 and Holding tries to be way too funny, when it probably didn’t need to, but still works as a small, sad and thought-provoking indie about small-towns and grief.

6 / 10

Gonna grow up to be some awfully weird adults. Just like the rest of us.

Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films

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L.I.E. (2001)

Get out of Long Island the first thing you do.

Still affected by the death of his mother, Howie (Paul Dano) has been having a bit of a rough go at life, for the time being. His dad (Bruce Altman) doesn’t seem to get him and is too busy spending time with his new girlfriend, who Howie obviously detests, and his best-friend Gary (Adam LeFevre), who he also has a love for, plans on moving out of their small suburban town in hopes of achieving his dreams of being rich and famous. Howie wants to profess his love for Gary, but he finds it easier to just go around causing all sorts of shenanigans with him, like for instance, robbing random people’s houses. One person that they rob is Big John (Brian Cox) an older, very charming man who has a certain affinity for young boys and immediately takes a liking to Howie. The later, all confused as to who to love or care for, immediately takes to Big John, too, and they both forge something of a friendship that gets dangerously close to being something much more. But will the two take the plunge, or learn to just respect one another?

Did Howie get his candy yet? You know, like he was promised?!?

A part of me feels like a great deal of the positive reception and, dare I say it, hype around L.I.E. has to solely due with the fact that it was touching on some really disturbing taboos that no one could get away with. Sure, the movie got slapped with an NC-17 rating nonetheless, but mostly that was due to the fact that it dealt with homosexuality, pedophilia, and sex in general, all featuring characters who seemed to be clearly underage. You could make the argument that the movie’s just another case of Larry Clarke’s Kids, but that would actually be an insult to L.I.E.

This movie’s much more thoughtful, whereas Clarke’s was just over-the-top and disturbing, for the sake of being so.

But still, L.I.E. isn’t quite nearly as good as it should be. One of the main aspects holding it back is that it’s the directorial debut from Michael Cuesta and in ways, you can tell. The movie’s dark, dirty, gritty, and grainy look, while giving it a realistic-look and feel, also feels amateurish, especially when the movie decides to stylize itself up a bit more with random, floating montages. You could say that it’s “pretentious”, but it isn’t entirely; a good deal of the movie is small, contained and actually, subtle, but there’s the other deal that also seems like a first-time director having a bit too much fun with a budget and a script in his hands.

That said, when the movie does settle down, L.I.E. works as a thoughtful and smart character-study of two troubled people coming together in a surprisingly believable way. It helps that we get to know each character very well before they meet one another, however, it also helps that Cuesta was able to get both Brian Cox and a very young Paul Dano in these lead roles, because they don’t just work well together, but they are actually the heart and soul of the whole picture.

Which is saying something, considering that the movie itself is pretty damn dark.

Don’t do it! Or do. It’s okay!

As Big John, Cox has the really troubling job of making a despicable and disgusting character seem somewhat sympathetic. And well, it works – not only do you come to care for this heinous wreck-of-a-man, but you also actually seem to get charmed by him. A part of the charm is his act and how he reels people in, and Cox gets by on this in spades, while all still seeming like one creepy individual. There’s more to this character that, in all honesty, deserved to be explored, but as far as portraits of actual monsters go, Cox’s Big John remains one of the more fully-realized and well-done.

Which is a shame because despite him trying very hard, Dano’s Howie doesn’t quite resonate as much. See, one aspect behind Howie’s character is that he’s a whole bunch of things that teenagers at that age are; confused, naive, angry, upset, and constantly fluctuating between emotions and how it is that they feel at any given moment. We get to see a lot about Howie and Dano makes it all work, but then, Cuesta comes around to making there more to Howie, like how he writes poetry, understands certain pop-culture references, and watches old movies, that don’t quite work. The movie wants to make Howie more than he actually is – which is just another upset teenager – and because of that, it takes away from what was already a smart and understandable character to begin with.

Oh well. Both Dano and Cuesta would continue to go on and do much better.

Same is obviously said for Cox.

Consensus: By touching on some disturbing themes in a very in-your-face way, L.I.E. can often times seem a little cloying, but still works because of the smart, understated and thoughtful performances from both Dano and, especially, Cox.

6.5 / 10

Love at first face-piercing.

Photos Courtesy of: Alter Ego Entertainment

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

jonathan

Sell, or die.

Four salesmen get the wake-up call of their lives when corporate decides to wake them up with the highest seller in the company (Alec Baldwin), over to their dingy office to not just motivate them, but also warn them: If they do not sell the right amount real estate that’s necessary, well, then they’re fired. This shocks everyone to the core and leaves each salesman left to fend for themselves, by any means necessary. There’s George (Alan Arkin) and Dave (Ed Harris), two guys who seem to have each other’s backs, even in all of the thick of this; there’s Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), who can hang with the best of them and get any person to buy, just based solely on his charm alone; there’s old-timer Shelley “the Machine” (Jack Lemmon), who’s been in this business long enough to know just how to sell, but has been having a rough go as of late; and then, finally, there’s John (Kevin Spacey), who is, essentially, their boss, but is mostly there to just go back to corporate and tell them all what these guys are doing, who’s providing the best results, and most importantly, who gets to stay, and who gets to go.

I'd love to have a drink anywhere near these two. Seriously.

I’d love to have a drink anywhere near these two. Seriously.

Glengarry Glen Ross is great for many reasons, the main being David Mamet and his way with words. Sure, it’s no surprise to anyone who has ever seen a Mamet movie that the guy knows how to script smart, somewhat tough-guy dialogue for people you wouldn’t expect to saying it, but watching and especially, listening, to each and every person talk in Glengarry Glen Ross, is truly a joyful experience. It’s like listening to an old pro, just go on and on about his experiences and life lessons, without it ever seeming hacky, or annoying – you want to hear gramps go on and on, so long as there’s more coffee being provided.

In Glengarry Glen Ross, you don’t need the coffee. All you really need is the great ensemble assembled here, all of whom, honestly, are pretty great. And this deserves to be pointed out, too, because in a lot of Mamet’s movies, you can tell when there are those people who can do his dialogue justice, and others who just can’t seem to get it. Due to his dialogue being so mannered and stern, sure, some actors come off as if they’re trying too hard, or not getting the point, but when you have those actors who do know what they’re doing and know how to handle the material, then it’s an absolute delight to listen to.

Which is why, I reiterate again, there’s no bad performance to be found anywhere here.

Everyone’s perfect for their role and it’s the rare gamble wherein a bunch of big names took on Mamet’s material, and they were all pretty great, without a single weak one anywhere in sight. Al Pacino does a superb job as the slimy, but smarmy and charming Ricky Roma; Alan Arkin is interesting to watch as the sort of meek and mild salesman, who seems as if his fighting days are long over; Ed Harris plays a rather sensitive role as the one salesman who is trying his best to stay afloat, but also seems to realize that his career has gone down the crapper; Kevin Spacey is good in a rare against-type role as a rather cowardly boss who has to do a lot of heavy-lifting for his job, doesn’t like it, but hey, has to get paid somehow; and of course, yeah, Alec Baldwin’s cameo is pretty amazing and legendary, but there’s no reason to go on about it. You’ve seen it, you’ve loved it, and you’ve probably quoted it a hundred times before, so there’s no reason to beat that horse.

We got it. Sell.

We got it. Sell.

But really, the stand-out for me, and the one who should have gotten more attention, was Jack Lemmon and his performance as Shelley, or as some call him, “the Machine”. Later-day Lemmon wasn’t filled with all that many bright spots, where he saw himself in more old grandpa roles, rather than the kind that challenged him more and showed that even in his old age, he could still hang with the big boys. And in Glengarry Glen Ross, he got to show that; the character of “the Machine” is a rich one in the first place, but Lemmon dives deep into him, with all that he’s got. “The Machine” is a sad, unfortunate man who sees his life and his career slowly running away from him, but he doesn’t sit around, he doesn’t pout, and he doesn’t ask for any sympathy – he goes out there and tries to sell, dammit. Lemmon makes us see the unbearably sad limits this character will go to, not just to stay successful, but somewhat relevant, as if his name will forever be remembered in the world of salesman.

It’s sad to think that such a thing exists.

The only thing that keeps Glengarry Glen Ross away from being the perfect piece of film making that it sometimes flirts with the idea of being, is that it’s pacing is a bit off. Director James Foley does a nice job of giving us a dark, eerie and noir-ish tone to the whole movie, without ever taking his attention away from the actors and their craft, but sometimes, it feels like it’s less of a play, and more of just a bunch of conversations happening, that we get to hear somehow. Not much of a story and when they do try to give us something of that, it doesn’t quite register. All we want to do is hear and watch these guys try to sell real estate, as well as their lives.

Sometimes, that’s all we need to be happy in a world like this.

Consensus: With amazing performances all around and an absolutely biting script from Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross works as one of the better stage-to-film adaptations that has some ripples, but overall, transitions quite well.

8.5 / 10

Oh and yeah, you need those things, too.

Oh and yeah, you need those things, too.

Photos Courtesy of: LIDA’S FILM BLOG

Miracles from Heaven (2016)

And we thought that the Giving Tree was blessed.

The Beams are your ordinary, middle-to-upper class family living down South, where they breed and take care of dogs, go to church every Sunday, and almost always have time for one another. That’s the way they’ve always been and quite frankly, that’s how they’re going to always be. However, the Beams’ lives all change when the middle daughter, Anna (Kylie Rodgers), begins to start throwing up randomly, holding her stomach, and not really being able to hold anything down when she eats it. Why is that? Well, the Beams go to many specialists and try to figure out just what the the hell is going on, until they finally get the right diagnosis and it’s a bit of a shocker: Anna suffers from an incurable disease, pseudo-obstruction motility disorder, which basically means that her intestines cannot process food. Though the doctors have given her medicine and ways for her to eat food without, well, actually chewing or swallowing, the Beams start to lose their touch with all of life, especially God himself. But then something happens to Anna that will forever change the Beams family, as well as everyone else around them.

Even Jen's questioning some of this.

Even Jen’s questioning some of this.

Faith-based movies like Miracles from Heaven seem to turn everyone off for the sole fact that they don’t ever try to hide who they’re made for, or what message they’re going to get across. While certain directors and writers out there in the world (Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, etc.) all make it known where they stand on a certain issue, or have a clear agenda from the very beginning and don’t ever seem to get as much hate as, for some reason, these seemingly well-intentioned, downright harmless faith-based movies that get all sorts of shade of thrown at them. Why is that?

Well, it’s because they’re preaching and, in ways, no better than a preacher you’d see standing in front of a mass of people on Sunday morning.

Personal beliefs aside, most of these faith-based movies, regardless of the ham-handed messages they pass-off, tend to be pretty bad. They look cheap, sound cheap and seem to be a huge waste of some pretty great talent who, for one reason or another, needed a paycheck so bad that they just felt inclined to get stuck in one of these movies. The same thoughts were going through my mind while watching Miracles from Heaven; another seemingly well-intentioned, harmless faith-based movie that knows exactly what it wants to say, isn’t hiding from that fact one bit, and is just trying to cheer the whole family up.

But Miracles of Heaven, for a good part of the flick, works, if only because it focuses on the anguish, the pain, the sadness, and the desperation that a situation like this would have. Director Patricia Riggen is not a very skilled director, however, she chooses to keep her focus less on all of the Christianity for the first-half or so, and just allows for us to grow closer to this family, their dynamic, their personalities, and just why their story matters. Sure, they’re are carbon-copies of every white family from the South ever put to screen, but they’re likable enough that I actually cared about what happened to them, their finances, and their overall reputations, when things begin to go south for  dear little Anna.

And yes, most of that has to do with the fact that Jennifer Garner is very good here and clearly way too good for this kind of wacky, sometimes silly material. She’s the kind of actress that can take this lame stuff, and actually do something of interest with it that may not always feel as powerful as it should be, but at least garners some idea of legitimacy. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you get good actors to handle a stupid script; if they’re engaged, then it might just work out.

Is that God himself? Or just another Magical Negro stereotype?

Is that a reincarnation of God? Or just another Magical Negro stereotype?

That doesn’t always happen, but hey, when it does, it’s a nice sight to watch.

That’s why Garner’s performance, as the matriarch of the family, does have some honesty and truth to it, even in the goofier moments. While this may lean more towards questioning the actual true story itself (which I will try my hardest to refrain from), Garner works her way through some bad material and adds a tone of realism to it that you can feel. Martin Henderson is fine as her hubby, even if he’s never really in the flick; Queen Latifah is pleasant enough that even if her role is so stupid, it’s still enjoyable enough because it’s Queen Latifah and how could she not be having fun; Kylie Rodgers is an okay child actress, even if she doesn’t have a lot to do except cry in pain practically the whole time; John Carroll Lynch plays the local preacher who, really, I wold have loved to see get his own movie, if only because I know there’d be some sort of way that Lynch would make him a creep; and Eugenio Derbez, showing up as the one doctor who tries his absolute hardest to help this disease, is a nice and pleasant surprise that I wish we got more of.

But truly, it’s Garner who helps this movie work.

Even when, you know, it gets bad.

For example, the last-half of Miracles from Heaven gets pretty awful, pretty quick that it made me rethink everything I saw before it. Everything gets explained, people start acting out in ways that they would have never acted before, and all of a sudden, everything’s all “important”. It probably is to the target audience of this, but for me, someone who wasn’t in that audience, honestly, it’s hard not to get really bothered by it. Faith-based movies will never stop being made, released, or able to make money, but lame ones can definitely cease – it just has yet to happen (excluding Risen).

What do I got to do to make that happen dammit? Pray?

Consensus: As corny and melodramatically sappy it can get, Miracles from Heaven benefits from having a realistic and compelling tone for a short while, until it begins to start preaching its rump off.

5 / 10

Oh, little white girls. So privileged, but hey, it's not hard to cry for them.

Oh, little white girls. So privileged, but hey, it’s not hard to cry for them.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Black Film

Morning Glory (2010)

If Indiana Jones and Annie Hall told me what was going on in the world everyday, the world would be a better place.

Becky (Rachel McAdams), a young, high-strung TV news producer feels as if she has it all, but somehow doesn’t. She gets let-go from her current job at a New Jersey local news station, and can’t seem to find a way to make a living in today’s economy. That is, until she’s hired by one of the least-rated morning news programs called Day Break. Becky’s first decision is to fire one of the co-hosts (Ty Burrell), but leaves the other, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), without anybody to help her out. By searching through thick and thin, Becky ends up with getting snobby, old-timer Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to do the job, but his old-school business of telling the news (you know, the stuff that matters) clashes with producers, his fellow co-host, and the ratings. Can Becky save her job, but the show as well? Oh no! Who knows?

I can probably assume that just by reading that synopsis up top, you can already bet just where this bad baby is going. Obviously, she’s going to struggle, run into some problems, find a way to get past those problems, run into more problems, and at the end of the day, possibly learn a lesson or two and make others feel happy for themselves. It’s the typical plot-line we are so used to following and it’s nothing that this movie doesn’t strive for, so what the hell could be the problem?

Well, believe it or not, nothing really. Just that it’s so typical, it barely even lasts in your mind, almost to the point of where you could probably go right on over to The Today Show, watch the Roker say some random shit about the weather, and not remember that you actually saw a movie that was sort of about day-time talk shows. However, the weirdest thing about this movie is that it wants you to remember it, and know the message it is trying to get across.

Don't even think of it you dirty, old bastard. She's mine!!!! I hope!!

Don’t even think of it you dirty, old bastard. She’s mine!!!! I hope!!

Yes, this movie does have a message here and as honest as it may be, it’s still freakin’ obvious because they actually say what it is once during the film. There’s a scene here where McAdams’ character tells Ford’s character that he has to get used to the fact that news isn’t what matters, it’s what’s entertaining that matters, so he better get used to it and man-up. That wasn’t word-for-word verbatim of what she said, but it’s pretty damn close and it made me wonder just what type of agenda this film had on it’s mind. It seemed like it was just gunning for a conventional, happy little movie about a girl finding her place in the world, but it went for so much more that it shocked me.

Not in the good way, either.

It’s a very strange predicament this movie runs itself into. It doesn’t seem to really want to be the type of movie that makes you think about the state of journalism and where it’s going (Spoiler alert: to hell), but at the same time, when it’s not making us chuckle or feel all cozy inside the pit of our tummies, it’s trying to do exactly that. The idea that news-programs can survive off of ridiculous stunts being caught on live-television is a bit dumb, but it’s very true because honestly, when was the last time you saw Matt Lauer actually ask a person about their feelings on the legalization of marijuana? Or abortion? Or college loans going up? Or anything of that matter that people actually give a hoot about?

Anybody?

Yup, didn’t think so.

As I said, it’s a very weird road this movie decides to go down, but it does it with enough charm that I can’t say that I hated myself for watching it. Can’t say that about a lot of movies, so when that idea actually does come into my head and stays; well, it’s a nice, little feeling that reminds me why I love watching and reviewing movies so much. Then again, with all of the movies that I do watch and review, it can be a bit hard to take pleasure and be happy with the little things, and the little movies in life that put a bit of a smile on your face. That’s not to say that this movie had me grinning cheek-to-cheek, but it’s pleasant in the way any good chick flick should be.

Speaking of ladies, ain’t that Rachel McAdams a beauty to behold? This gal really is something else because not only is she charming, but she’s able to make such a conventional, obvious character like “the career-woman who puts her love life on the back-burner”, seem sympathetic and adorable in her own, cutesy-way. McAdams just has that spark to her that makes you get on-board behind character right away, no matter what type of dead-ends she may hit on her path to being successful and happy. This is one role that could have easily been given to somebody like Jennifer Garner or Katherine Heigl, and probably would have had me searching for my remote under every seat-cushion, but it wasn’t given to them. It was given to McAdams and the girl really gives the role all she’s got and make it work, despite her character being one big cliché, after another.

The romance she has with Patrick Wilson also seems slightly forced, even though they both seem to be trying to make it work for the movie’s sake. Still, I have to give it to a movie that can not only feature McAdams’ tush in one shot, but the charming Patrick Wilson as well. That one shot, shows that there’s something in this movie for everyone: boys, girls, straights, gays, you name it. You know exactly the shot I’m talking about, because it’s the only thing anybody ever remembers from this damn movie.

"Should we talk about the latest gun reform, or what the hell Kim and Ye's baby is going to be called? The latter? Okay, thought so."

“Should we talk about the latest gun reform, or what the hell Kim and Ye’s baby is going to be named? The latter? Okay, thought so.”

But perhaps the best performance out of this whole movie has got to be Harrison Ford as the old, cranky newsman; Mike Pomeroy. As most of us saw with 42, it seems to be that old Han Solo has still got some acting-skills left in his bag of goodies, and he shows it here quite well. Not only is the guy funny by acting all crotchety and mean, but he’s also a bit endearing as well, because we see what happens to a man that put his career in front of everything else, and can’t really come to terms with where his life has actually ended up. Okay, maybe that was a bit more deep than anything the movie actually tried to get across, but hey, it’s what makes Ford still a solid actor, even after all of these years of shooting Greedo first and getting nuked in fridges.

The only one in this cast that feels like a bit of a waste is Diane Keaton, who seems to really be having a ball as the older, but still-foxy co-host of the show. Keaton’s still got the looks, the charm, and the comedic-timing to still make her character work, it’s just a shame that her character sort of gets thrown to the side, just so Ford can live long and prosper. Guess it was needed, but damn did I miss myself some of old-school Diane!

Consensus: Everything in Morning Glory is calculated, manipulative and obvious from the very start, but at least it’s still charming, much ado to the fine cast that seems ready to make us happy and smile.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

And Diane be like, “Oh mah lawwddd!”

And once again, Diane be like, “Oh mah lawwddd!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Arbitrage (2012)

Billionaires are never fully satisfied.

Robert Miller (Richard Gere), is a troubled hedge fund magnate who is forced to turn to an unlikely person (Nate Parker) for help after a crucial mistake involving a sale in his trading empire.

I’ve been hearing a whole lot of buzz about this movie for one thing: Richard Gere. Now for all of you DTMMR lovers out there (and there better plenty of them dammit!), you have to already know that even though Gere is a fellow Philadelphian, he is still one of my least favorite actors. That’s sort of why I wasn’t really looking forward to this one but you know what, it’s not so bad sometimes giving an actor that you hate a chance. Still not yet sold on you yet though, Harrison Ford.

This is the directorial debut of writer/director Nicholas Jarecki and the guy does a pretty solid job with his material. This isn’t your typical thriller where it’s constant car-chases and quick-cuts to allow there to be tension and excitement, it’s more about the pacing and how Jarecki takes his time with everything and doesn’t let it get too crazy for his own good. There’s just something about this whole story of lust, greed, and money that just seems so current in today’s world and how it plays out in this flick and it makes for a fun, but very grim watch. It doesn’t get as dark as you may think, but it at least flirts with that idea quite a few times and that’s the strength of Jarecki’s direction.

The problem that I think Jarecki runs into with this flick is that it is essentially two movies in one, with only one of them actually being good. The first movie is about how this billionaire gets himself all caught-up in a financial crisis that he seem to get out of, and the other movie is about the death of his mistress and how that effects everything and everyone around him. The latter story is the one I was most interested by as I found it really made the suspense and mystery flow within the film. Seeing all of these other reviews, I know I’m sort of alone in that boat but there was just something there that intrigued me and kept me watching.

Problem with that is, is that when Jarecki would go right into the whole financial crisis this guy was going through, I didn’t really seem to care. Not just because this guy is a dick but it’s something about people spouting out numbers and stocks that just doesn’t do it for me quite as much as an interrogation does. This makes the film a bit uneven in the way it transitions from one plot, to another and it just gets a bit annoying after awhile and sort of kills all of the tension and excitement that the one story had going for itself in the first-place. Maybe Jarecki got some directorial jitters where he felt the need to pack all of this stuff in just to make it exciting and entertaining, but ended up making something that was a bit too ambitious for his own good. Not saying it was a terrible decision on his part, but it definitely wasn’t the right one, either.

Now believe it or not, and I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but I think it’s Richard Gere himself who makes this film a bit more watchable than I expected. I don’t want to go out there and say that Gere gives the performance of his career here as Miller, because I don’t really think he does anything different other than be pretty mean to everyone around him, but he does give a very good performance that makes this reprehensible guy seem a bit more human than I expected at first. He’s not a total Gordan Gekko as he just gets money, gets the babes, and gets more greedy, he’s just another rich dude that has a lot of respect to his name, and doesn’t want to lose that because of a couple of dumb-ass decisions he’s made and tried to get away with. Gere is good in this role because he sort of humanizes Miller and gives him an older-edge that makes him feel more realistic. As for all of the Oscar talk, I don’t think so. Honestly, I’am willing to throw down my hatred for somebody if they give an all-out, perfect performance, but Gere didn’t really blow me away here and I think if he ends up getting nominated for anything, it will most likely be because he’s never been nominated before and the Academy feels a bit guilty. No offense to the poor guy, but it’s sort of the truth.

Gere is also backed-up by a great supporting cast that all give their two cents into the whole, final product. Susan Sarandon comes out of nowhere as his wife that seems like she has no clue what’s going on behind closed doors, but a couple of scenes by the end proves otherwise and shows you that this chick doesn’t take any shit because she know’s what’s up. It’s a shame that Sarandon doesn’t get more screen-time here, but she takes advantage of what she’s given and that’s all that mattered to me. Brit Marling was okay as his daughter, but could have been a bit stronger in the way she carried herself, especially when things started to go South for her and her daddy. I was also very surprised to see Tim Roth here as Det. Michael Bryer, because it’s been quite some time but he still shows that he’s got it. There’s a little sense that the guy is a bit of a dirty cop, but after awhile, you do realize that he’s just another detective trying to do his job and trying to get the bad-guys, for doing the bad things. The one performance that really stood-out above the rest for me was Nate Parker as I think he made his random character, somebody we can actually sympathize with and stand behind as he seems like the only one who actually has a conscience. The guy definitely holds his own against heavy-weights like Roth and Gere, but when it’s just him doing his own thing, he’s very, very good and shows that he can try and make us all forget about Red Tails. “Try” being the key-word.

Consensus: Arbitrage is essentially two movies all slapped into one which may prove to be a bit uneven for the whole flick, but still features some great performances from the cast and a nice sense of tension that lies underneath the whole time.

6.5/10=Rental!!