The Deal

With corporate malfeasance a constant presence in the news, it was only a matter of time before a film came out dealing with the topic. It's a great topic, full of intrigue and backstabbing deserving a great movie. Well, The Deal is not that movie. Yes it's topical (it mixes in corporate bad boys with the energy markets), but steers too far in the authenticity department. Like Primer, The Deal tries to be as true to its topic as possible, using lots of industry-specific terminology. Anybody with a background in oil, finance, or M&A will understand most of what these people are saying. After all, how many movies will use the words "beta" (as in the Black-Scholes model) and "fungible?" Within seconds of each other no less. However, writer Ruth Epstein forgot to put in a plausible plot, opting instead for tired Hollywood mechanisms and some annoying preaching at the very end.

In the world of The Deal, America is at war with the Confederation of Arab States. This pushes the price of oil upwards of five dollars per gallon. Companies are desperately looking for a new source of oil, both to provide supply for the insatiable demand of Americans, and, of course, to profit. There is an alternative - pollution credits that can be exchanged on the open market. "Green" companies with excess credits can sell them to polluting companies for a profit. To Epstein's credit, this is a working alternative in government at the moment, yet many environmentalists do not favor it because it takes conservation and applies the principles of cost/benefit analysis to it. But that's a different matter entirely.

One of the people in favor of pollution credits is Abbey Gallagher (Selma Blair, A Dirty Shame, In Good Company), an idealistic Harvard MBA. So it strikes her as odd when an investment bank specializing in the oil industry (i.e. her ideological opposite) hires her to work for them. She sees an opportunity to do some good from the other side and agrees to join. She finds herself working with Tom Hanson (Christian Slater, Alone in the Dark, Mindhunters), a slick, smart professional working on a deal with Condor, a large oil company. Condor wants to merge with Black Star, an oil company out of Kazakhstan. Hanson took on the project after the death (murder) of his friend (and Condor employee). A successful merger would mean billions for Condor, Hanson's company, and a large supply of gas for the United States. However, as Hanson does his due diligence, the details behind the deal look shakier.

And it's all about the details. Epstein and director Harvey Kahn (Water's Edge) flood the audience with too much industry information. It does look and sound incredibly authentic, but also makes the movie incredibly dull. Worse are attempts at forwarding the plot. It becomes obvious halfway through the film what is wrong with the oil fields, yet anybody watching needs to wait for Hanson to deduce it. Throw in a lame romance between Hanson and Gallagher, and the lamer inclusion of the Russian Mafia and The Deal becomes laughable. The last fifteen minutes or so are just plain ridiculous, with some hammy action from Robert Loggia (The Shipment, All Over Again). Throwing in a bunch of action in the third act ruins the film. In order to work, The Deal needed to be an intelligent movie. Adding all that junk undermines the script. So for the time being, anybody wanting a good movie about corporate scandals will need to remain in the real world and watch Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated R for language and some violence.

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