Deal (2008) - Movie Review

  • 19 August 2008

Rating: 2 out of 5

Poker-themed movies are -- finally -- hitting the sunset of their lives. When Burt Reynolds gets in on the game, you know the jig is just about up.

Reynolds actually acquits himself amicably in Deal, a harmless but unmemorable little movie about playin' cards: The young buck, the grizzled mentor, and the prostitute... they're all here. Reynolds is Tommy Vinson, the vet who hasn't played poker in 20 years but was a mastermind of the game back in the day. (Hard times, bad string of luck... you know how it goes.) Vinson spots genius Alex (Bret Harrison) on a televised poker tournament and, just like that, figures he can take the talented but undisciplined little puke and teach him a thing or two. Namely, Vinson's secret is all about spotting tells in other players, which he can miraculously do in a matter of seconds and from across the room -- nay, from outside the room, really. Why anyone would let Vinson hang around to spy on them remains one of the film's biggest mysteries.

Like that, Alex and Vinson strike a deal (Vinson gets half of Alex's winnings -- gulp!), and they start bringing home the cash. But with money (and the occasional prostitute) comes friction, and eventually the two part ways. If you don't know who'll be facing off against each other in the final game of the movie, well, you haven't seen many films involving competition of any sort.

Any sense of conflict in Deal feels so manufactured and spare that it really ends up imbuing the film with nothing but a tepid, lukewarm spirit. It just doesn't resonate with the high-stakes gambling world setting. In fact, the biggest fight in the film is between Vinson and his wife, who has extracted (of course) a promise from Vinson that He'll Never Play Poker Again. Groan...

Deal is ultimately so gossamer thin that it's hard to feel strongly about it one way or the other. There's not a single unexpected plot point or even a line of dialogue in the movie -- the closest it gets is when Vinson plays some of his cards at the final table without looking at them -- but it's wholly competent in its production values and kind of quaint in an old-fashioned way in its dedication to A-B-C, by-the-book storytelling. Hell, it's rated PG-13, and that's probably just for the gambling. Replace the poker with UNO and the hooker with a maid and you've got a nice little family movie here.

The DVD includes a poker tutorial.

Hey, I brought the tape!

Facts and Figures

Year: 2008

Production compaines: Andertainment Group, Crescent City Pictures, Tag Entertainment

Reviews 2 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Gil Cates Jr.

Producer: Michael Arata, Steve Austin, Albert J. Salzer, Marc Weinstock

Screenwriter: Gil Cates Jr., Mark Weinstock

Starring: Burt Reynolds as Tommy Vinson, Bret Harrison as Alex Stillman, Shannon Elizabeth as Michelle, Maria Mason as Helen Vinson, Jennifer Tilly as Karen "Razor" Jones, Gary Grubbs as Mr. Stillman, Charles Durning as Charlie Adler

Also starring: Steve Austin