Runtime: US 86 minutes
Director: Gil Cates Jr.
Release Date: 06/12/08(Germany)
Cast: Burt Reynolds, with Bret Harrison, Shannon Elizabeth, Jennifer Tilly, Maria Mason
Maybe it has something to do with the recent surge in the online poker and online casino industry or maybe it’s a complete fluke, but in recent years films about poker, blackjack and the Vegas gambling scene have been on overflow-mode. Deal, released in 2008, is one of the newest additions to this collection of films that “take a gamble” by basing their plot around poker. In Deal, an ex-gambler teaches a young man everything he knows about the game of poker and the ways of the world, only to meet him across the final table of the World Series of Poker at the end of the film.
Sound cliché? It is. Deal seems to replicate the plot of so many other films about poker. To expand on the summary, Deal tells the story of Alex, a recent college graduate who feels he is wasting his life away as a law clerk at his dad’s firm. When he wins an online poker satellite tournament that gets him a spot on a televised game he sees an opportunity to make something of himself. He loses badly in the televised show but an ex-gambler named Tommy, played by Bert Reynolds, watches the game and sees potential in Alex. He offers to teach him and mold him into a world-class poker player. Alex gratefully takes him up on his offer.
Deal isn’t only about poker, though at times it seems like sheer advertisement for online poker sites and poker television shows. It has a back story that involves Tommy’s relationship with his wife as she leaves him for getting back into gambling and Alex’s conflict with his father about law vs. poker and his brief relationship with a drop-dead gorgeous hooker played by Shannon Elizabeth, which leads to the disintegration of Tommy and Alex’s partnership. However, the plot is weak and not very suspenseful. For many critics the best parts of the movie are the poker scenes, and even those are not very worthy of sitting through.
When you watch a movie about poker, as a poker player, you want to learn something new-some tricks of the trade, as it were, to help you improve your own game. You would think that in a movie like Deal, that revolved around the story of one poker player teaching another everything he knows, that you would be able to reap more benefit as a poker player. While there are a few tips given about how to read tells (which most serious poker players should already know), nothing really insightful is offered up on the subject of poker strategy in the film.
Deal did not win any awards and the only award it was nominated for was the Razzie Award for Burt Reynolds as Worst Supporting Actor. However, Burt Reynolds was certainly not the worst actor in the film. Bret Harrison, who plays the character of Alex, gives an amateur performance. Shannon Elizabeth doesn’t do an outstanding job of acting either, although she looks good and that is about all that matters for her sleazy role.
Deal isn’t the worst poker movie ever made-it’s just nothing new. Though it’s plot and character studies don’t drive too deep and the acting isn’t Oscar-quality it is engaging and tolerable if you are into poker. However, it isn’t the kind of movie that you should shell out ten bucks to see in a theater or take home from Blockbuster. With all the cliché themes and storylines that you would expect from a typical film about poker, Deal doesn’t bring much to the table, even for the most diehard of poker fans.