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The Deal
cast: Christian Slater, Selma Blair, John Heard, Colm Feore, and Robert Loggia

director: Harvey Kahn

108 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
SPOILER ALERT!
The big clue is in the opening credits. Christian "Call me Jack!" Slater is listed as the executive producer, so it's probably best if you view this as a vanity project. When the story starts, the USA is at war with the Confederation of Arab States and has embargoed their oil. One gets the impression that this script was in development just that bit too long, as pre-invasion Iraq fitted the bill perfectly.

Anyway, gasoline has soared to $6 per gallon, which, I have been informed, is a terrifying thing for Americans. The economy is reeling, although the only sign of this is the odd fracas in the background as our characters drive past gas stations. Tom Hanson (Slater) is assigned by his own Wall Street company, Delaney & Strong, to assist the Condor oil company in their attempt to import oil from the former USSR. Condor CEO, sinister Jared Tolson (Robert Loggia, looking scarily like one of the old hecklers from The Muppet Show), specifically requested him after the previous advisor, a friend of Slater's, had been murdered in a car park. Many people at D&S find this a bit peculiar, since Hanson doesn't know the first thing about oil. Soon we are up to our necks in murder, kidnapping and the Russian mafia.

Soon? Eventually. When the plot can be described in two sentences or thereabouts, the weight of the film must fall on the characters. Unfortunately the two-dimensional characters fold under the expectations of the filmmakers. The first 40 minutes of this film is as fast moving as watching your own fingernails grow. Abbey Gallagher (Selma Blair) turns up fresh out of college and brimming with idealism and green credentials, so naturally D&S assign her to help Hanson. Romance blossoms as Blair's expressive face tries to inject some movement into the film.

The film picks up a bit and some fisticuffs and gunplay and even a short car chase are thrown into the film. There's still enough space for Blair to go over the exact same ground as Slater after he ditches her for her own safety. It's hard to decide if this was a misguided attempt to recap the plot in case the viewer was having a problem following it (possibly having fallen asleep during the first half), or if it was merely to pad it out. Many of the satellite characters turn out, of course, to be other than they seem. The dropping of perfect American accents when no longer necessary is a wonder to behold.

I believe that I might have inadvertently given away the plot. If so, many apologies, but if you can work it out from the above comments, then you would spot what was coming in the film as it bore down on you like a steamroller in first gear. There is, however, one thing worth staying to the end for, and that is the official hearing near the end, which is chaired by Senator Lucas, who is inexplicably played by real-life congressman Jay Robert Inslee. Inslee is the most wooden thing to appear on the screen since the last time the Black Pearl sailed into view, and it's not helpful to have him deliver a line that is totally impervious to deconstruction. This is no exaggeration, and if this film is remembered for anything, it will be for Inslee's cameo. The conclusion itself leaves a bad taste and a feeling of 'so what?'
NEXT

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