2 stars (out of four)
These days, almost everything is overpriced, especially the movies. But "The Deal" is one medium-budget movie that can fool you for a while into thinking it's a pricier, classier item, and even a better film, than it ultimately is.
Set on Wall Street and in upscale Manhattan (though shot in Vancouver), it's a John Grisham-style thriller about financial chicanery and crooked international politics. The characters are investment bankers, oil company executives, financial whizzes and an assortment of international spies and crooks -- and they all seem to be whipping up, juggling or trying to undermine deals worth millions or billions.
The cast, a good one, includes Christian Slater as sexy Wall Street whiz Tom Hanson; Selma Blair as his sexy Harvard environmentalist protege, Abbey Gallagher; Robert Loggia as dangerous corporate czar Jared Tolson; John Heard as maverick Harvard academic Professor Roseman; and Colm Feore and Kevin Tighe as Skater's rival and boss, respectively, at renowned investment bank Delaney and Strong.
The plot was engineered by a real ex-investment banker: onetime Goldman, Sachs and Co. vice president Ruth Epstein. Her screenplay is set a few years in the future when everything has gotten worse, including the Middle East war, Russian organized crime and corporate America, which seems to have been taken over by a cabal of Harvard grads, old character actors, cold-blooded killers and part of "The Sopranos" cast.
Epstein's expertise gives "The Deal" an initial plausibility that the movie quickly sells short. Her dialogue, crammed with financial argot, has a ring of authenticity. But that gets wasted too, along with director Kahn's rapid pacing and some good acting by Loggia, Feore, Tighe and Slater.
It's hard to buy this movie's sinister conspiracy and complex oil swindle -- but I have to admit that stranger and more crooked things have happened in real life.
By the end of "The Deal," when we've gotten past imitation Grisham-land into the usual folderol, logic has long since retired to the Hamptons, and Slater's Hanson is beginning to run a little ragged. I think "The Deal" has the worst happy ending I've seen in a while.
Epstein and Kahn might have been better off leaving the assassinations, kidnappings and cliffhangers to Grisham and made a simpler, more realistic movie about a desperate young banker juggling deals and trying to stay afloat. With this cast, that plotline might have made for an entertaining movie.
Directed by Harvey Kahn; written by Ruth Epstein; photographed by Adam Sliwinski; edited by Richard Schwadel; production designed by Andrew Deskin; music by Christopher Lennertz; music supervisor Chris Violette; produced by Harvey Kahn, Ruth Epstein and Chris Dorr. A Front Street Films release of a Myriad Pictures presentation of a Front Street Films/Clean Slate production; opens Friday, June 17. Running time: 1:47. MPAA rating: R (language and some violence).
Tom Hanson - Christian Slater
Abbey Gallagher - Selma Blair
Jared Tolson - Robert Loggia
Hank Weiss - Colm Feore
Anna - Angie Harmon
Professor Roseman - John Heard
John Cortland - Kevin TigheCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times