Hank’s Recommendations 12/18/12

hank_paperARBITRAGE — Richard Gere playing hedge fund magnate, Robert Miller, looks great per usual but he’s in trouble. He’s made a bad bet on a copper mine that’s keeping him from the much needed sale of his hitherto successful company. What starts out as a temporary business deception to redeem the sale turns all-encompassing when a horrendous incident turns a desire to protect his investors into something that threatens to ruin everything and everyone close to him.

The film has a canny pacing. Starting out evenly at a family birthday party, measured revelations are followed by one swift event after another as the various strands of duplicity knit together to draw the noose tighter and tighter: a noose that will rope you in as well. A superb roster of supporting characters enhances the film’s pedigree and drama: Tim Roth perfectly cast as a slouchy and dogged New York City homicide detective; Britt Marling (writer and star of ANOTHER EARTH and THE SOUND OF MY VOICE) as Miller’s unknowing daughter and financial officer, Nate Parker as a young black man who is Miller’s sole lifeline and for whom integrity is all, New Haven’s own Bruce Altman as a sleazy, suited go-between and Susan Sarandon as Miller’s loving wife who, in a brilliant coda to the film, saves her own revelations for the last.

Forgoing a standard Hollywood ending, this film hews to its own integrity by getting to the heart of the crash of 2008 in one individual, a person not unlike Bernie Madoff although, as incarnated by Richard Gere, certainly better looking. The only unfortunate note in the film is the black dress Sarandon wears in the end sequence—something only Bjork (who does the song at the end credit roll) might wear and actually get away with.

A suggestion: you might watch this film on a double bill with THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES (reviewed here last week). You can’t ask for a better-balanced program (inadvertent documentary satire and contemporary suspense drama) about how the one per cent lives.

KILLER JOE — A charming Dallas hit man (Matthew McConaughey) brought in by a trashy family to kill the mother for the insurance money causes family dysfunction to run amok. This stylish B-film potboiler actually derived from the long running Broadway play that parodies B-film potboilers is funny and disturbing in equal measures. Among a superb cast, Gina Gershon lets it all hang out as the scheming, two-timing wife while director William Friedkin (THE EXORCIST) proves he hasn’t lost a thing in making a trashy story look classy. The film is sometimes off-putting, but you may also find can‘t take your eyes off it.