Billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Miller (Gere) seemingly has it all: a loving family and a hugely successful company he's about to sell to a major bank for a huge profit. Unfortunately, this is all a facade: an investment gone bad created a whopping $400 million hole which he covered up by cooking the books and taking out a loan, which could land him in jail for a long time. His only hope is for the sale to go forward so that the money is replaced but the prospective buyer seems to be stalling. To make matters worse, Miller is also cheating on his wife with a young artist and while driving her to a romantic escapade, he falls asleep and crashes the car, killing her. Miller escapes and has Jimmy, the son of his former driver, pick him up from the crash site. The crash is then investigated by NYPD Detective Bryer (Roth) who has a massive chip on his shoulder regarding rich people who escape justice. The rest of the movie revolves around Miller juggling to keep his fraud, cheating and manslaughter a secret...but can he do it?
Arbitrage provides examples of:
- Alone in a Crowd: The ending.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Bryer has a photo of Jimmy's car going through a toolbooth forged in order to try to get him to sell Miller out.
- Grey and Grey Morality: Miller has commited fraud, adultery and manslaughter and seeks to cover up all three yet he clearly regrets his actions and is trying to save the money and reputations of all involved. Detective Bryer has noble motives and a very relatable desire to see a billionaire pay for the crime he committed for once but goes through increasingly questionable means to do so, culminating in forging evidence.
- Hypocrite: At the beginning of the film, Miller gives an interview claiming he took a huge bet on the housing crisis during the biggest housing boom in history because his parents (who grew up during The Great Depression) had taught him that bad things always happen. Turns out that the whole reason he's in this mess is because he invested $400 million in a Russian copper mine which produced enormous returns until the Russian government suddenly decided to stop exporting copper, leaving the money in limbo.
- Pyrrhic Villainy: Miller manages to keep himself and Jimmy out of jail and manages to go ahead with the sale but loses both his money and the respect of his family.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Miller's son.
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Detective Bryer starts out as this, but arguably becomes less sympathetic when he starts overtly threatening Jimmy and frames him with the forged photo
- Sympathy for the Devil: Despite Miller being an embezzler, philanderer and getting a woman killed, Gere manages to imbue him with an astonishing amount of humanity. It also helps that the path he's pursuing regarding the fraud (getting the sale to come through) is made clear to be the only one that manages to ensure that no one - investors, creditors, employees, etc - loses any money.
- White Collar Crime