Arbitrage is like an episode of Columbo gone awry, but that's not a bad thing. I'm a huge fan of Columbo, with it being second to The Wire on my list of favourite TV shows. Arbitrage follows its formula to a remarkable degree, and quite self-consciously I should think. We are introduced immediately to the villain of the drama, played with worrying ease by Richard Gere. He is rich, he is adulterous, and he is a complete megalomaniac. But unlike the traditional Columbo villain, the crime that brings him to the attention of the idiosyncratic police detective is an accident. How he tries to get away with it, however, is a coldly executed plan, and we are left wondering throughout how the situation will resolve.
The film, it must be said, is far more cynical than an episode of Columbo. The police are not beyond corruption, and one of the only truly honest people in the film gets burned. Unlike Peter Falk and the gang, Arbatrage will not bring a smile to your face. But it is always compelling, with the hour and forty five minutes flying by.