There is more complexity in a sub-par episode of the Teletubbies than in anything to be found in DEAL, a Burt Reynolds vehicle that far from heralding his comeback may be his swan song as a bankable actor. This criminally trite bit of filmmaking never quite got past the original concept that seems to have been not so much dreamed up as pieced together from filmmaking handbooks. The plot is so mechanical that you can hear the gears creaking. Awkwardly. A lack of proper lubrication, alas, is not the worst of the evils to be found here.
Retired poker star, Tommy (Reynolds), hankering for a first-class retirement and maybe the thrill of competition, wangles his way into mentoring up-and-coming poker star Alex (baby-faced Bret Harrison). Alex is a natural at the game, but needs some seasoning, which Tommy promises he’ll impart. They’ll split the winnings and both walk away winners. It’s a premise rife with possibilities, and yet all concerned went with one and only one: hackneyed. The kid has a future as a lawyer, so his emotionally distant father offers token resistance to his playing poker on weekends. Tommy’s wife made him promise to give up poker and she offers token resistance to his taking it up again even by proxy. Shannon Elizabeth, on the other hand, is the knockout who offers no resistance to Alex and goes on to teach him that he is a ladykiller. Charles Durning is there as an expository device.
Reynolds, looking very much like an expressionless waxwork replica of himself, matches his acting style to his appearance. Nothing registers on his face, and when he moves, the effect can best described as a peculiar strutting shuffle. And the same can be said of the flick as a whole. It is noticeably lacking in drama, tension, emotion, or anything even remotely resembling a surprise, and to top it off there is a great deal of pre-fab dialogue that has the ring of “afterschool special’ about it. Harrison playing 21-years-old as if it were 12, spends the film looking dewy-eyed and befuddled. The actual sets from the World Poker Tour, and the few real-life poker champions sitting around it, look considerably less exciting in this context, despite being jazzed up with a sprinkling of feathered showgirls. Even the stock shots of Las Vegas don’t sparkle quite the way they should here.
DEAL is not just the title of a cinematic disaster, it’s also an unapologetic imperative directed at the audience, as in deal with it. It’s a shambles from start to finish and full of hot air in between.