The Deal (August 14/05)
That first-time screenwriter Ruth Epstein worked for years as a broker on Wall Street doesn't come as much of a surprise, as - if nothing else - The Deal features dialogue that sounds authentic. But therein lies the film's most obvious problem: because Epstein places the emphasis on complex business terms and a plot that doesn't make a lick of sense, The Deal comes off as a remarkably dull economics lecture posing as a corporate thriller.
The Deal is set in an alternate reality where America is at war with the Confederation of Arab States, resulting in escalating gas prices (six bucks a gallon!) and growing insecurity among financial types. Tom Hanson (Christian Slater) is an investment banker who, after the death of a close friend, finds himself assigned a billion-dollar deal involving the purchase of oil from a Russian firm called Black Star. Assisting him is idealistic Harvard grad Abbey Gallagher (Selma Blair), while opposition appears in the form of a ruthless co-worker named Hank Weiss (Colm Feore). Also thrown into the mix are a shady businessman (Robert Loggia) and Tom's mysterious girlfriend (Angie Harmon).
Aside from the fact that large chunks of The Deal are simply incoherent (something that's exacerbated by the free use of baffling terms such as "valuation parameters," "high beta," and "fairness opinions"), Epstein imbues the storyline with some seriously cliched instances of dialogue and plotting (ie at one point a character actually says, "welcome to the real world!"). Epstein sticks to the how-to-write-a-thriller rulebook so closely, there's not a single surprise or twist we can't see coming a mile away. Add to that the fact that we've got absolutely nothing invested in this situation or any of the characters, and you've got a recipe for an astoundingly dull little flick.