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The Deal

(2005) * 1/2 R
107 min. Myriad Pictures. Director: Steven Schachter. Cast: William H. Macy, Meg Ryan, David Hunt, Jason Ritter, Fiona Glascott (II).

Why would The Deal—a hot-button, Christian Slater conspiracy thriller about Arab-American war, oil reserves, and Wall Street skullduggery—slink into town from a little-known distributor? Too much competition? Too hot to handle? Too intelligent? Nope. Two words for you: it sucks. Clunky, clumsy, slow, and silly, The Deal proves to be an "Oh, shit. We picked a lemon" embarrassment for Slater, Selma Blair, Robert Loggia, Angie Harmon, Kevin Tighe, Colm Feore, and John Heard.

One and a half cheers for the old college try, though, as screenwriter Ruth Epstein, former Vice President at Goldman, Sachs & Co., puts her Harvard Business School M.B.A. to work on this unconvincing cloak-and-dagger thriller. Epstein labors to make the simplest plot—oil company saves face and progfits by illegally diverting oil—complicated and "thrilling." She sexes it up with the Russian mafia (and, to be fair, the Russian mafia has its mitts on plenty of oil business) and the plot, which predicted our current conflict in the Middle East, is certainly timely.

But The Deal's key negotiator is its director, Harvey Kahn. Kahn's lack of experience shows in every dim, quiet, and uninvolving frame. The Deal has straight-to-cable written all over it (check out how Kahn makes even a car chase ho-hum), despite a wonderfully grounded performance from Blair, decent anchoring by Slater (his character is called "a kinder, gentler Gordon Gekko," which apparently means "watered down"), and full servings of ham from the rest of the cast. Logga growls to Slater, "Welcome to the real world!" but don't you believe it.

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