Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I might not know a flop from a big blind but I know a Bad Movie when I see one and today Bad Movie your name is ‘Deal’. Since Poker is like on fire right now and since Hollywood has never been accused of trying not to exploit a trend there have been about half dozen poker movies released in the last year or so and I’ve seen none of them… except this one. Not that I’m avoiding poker movies, just haven’t gotten around to seeing any…except this one. Most of the card playing movies that have been released lately have received substandard reviews and even more sub standard box office returns, and I don’t think ‘Deal’ is going to fare much better, but I’ve been wrong before.

Alex (Bret Harrison) is a summa cum laude graduating college boy who has gotten through school taking his classmates money in Texas Hold ‘em with his superior number skill and on-the-fly probability making decisions. Due to the magic of those internets, Alex plays his way into some big money tournament which doesn’t make his old man happy because he has not spent his hard earned shekels to send this punk kid to college to become a card shark. Nonetheless he convinces the curmudgeon that it’s just a slight diversion and off Alex goes to wherever these things take place to try to win the big pot.

Across town Tommy (Burt Reynolds), a retired card shark for twenty plus years is sitting in his easy chair watching this tournament on the tele while his wife Helen (Maria Mason) keeps a close eye on his compulsive gambling ass. Alex gets drummed out the tournament kind of quick but Tommy sees some potential in the kid and by pure chance runs into him at some local gambling hall and offers to be Mister Miyagi to his Daniel-san and hopefully take the kids game to the next level.

Young and old get off to a rocky start but once Alex starts trusting in the ancient geezer he starts to pick up things, like the opposing players ‘reveal’. Despite being a card playing hero, Alex is a straight zero when it comes to the ladies, which Tommy tries to help him with as well, suggesting that he talk to a completely anonymous gorgeous girl across the casino that Tommy has just picked out of blue. Michelle (Shannon Elizabeth) is hot as hell and even though Alex is incredibly awkward around this raven haired beauty that is far better looking than any other woman he’s ever seen before in his life, he shoots and he SCORES! See what happens if you just try?

Well Alex’s confidence is pretty damn high about now but then it all hits the fan as he feels he is betrayed by Tommy, then Tommy’s wife finds out that he’s back in the casino, Alex’s old man doesn’t know why he’s wasting his time and this all leads up to the biggest poker tournament of all where the young protégé and the old master buck heads to see if the student can indeed beat the master. Who would win a fight between Daniel-san and Mister Miyagi? We wonder.

Help me out here. Alex’s old man doesn’t want his son playing cards and is yelling at him about wasting the money that he’s plunked down for law school for the punk. Alex drops sixty large on the kitchen table and tells the old man there goes your loot. Alex also tells the old man that if he can chill for two weeks he’s entering a tournament with an 8 million dollar payout. The old man, inexplicably, tells Alex ‘you already have a job’, a job that involves him operating a copy machine. Okay, I happen to have a son and if my little boy drops sixty thousand on kitchen table in front of me, assuming it’s legit, he has my attention. Then if he tells me 8 mil is around the corner, how do I sound telling him to forget that mess and go back to running a copy machine? I would act cool and advise him that if doesn’t work out we always got the copy machine to fall back on, while secretly falling to my knees and praising Jesus hoping that there’s room on that gravy train for my fat ass. Crazy man.

Trust me when I tell you’ve seen this one a thousand times before, only those were better. As I tried to get past the incessant neo-pop music score which I think played in every single frame of this mess, I was hoping it would do something to surprise me. I was hoping when the zero magically picked up Shannon Elizabeth that she wasn’t a whore Tommy paid for. I was hoping that Tommy and Alex wouldn’t split and have to play against each other. I was hoping the music would stop playing in the background. I was hoping that Tommy’s wife wouldn’t come back to her gambling addicted husband. I was hoping that Jennifer Tilly would get naked. None of these wishes would be granted to me. But as run of the mill as ‘Deal’ was the biggest problem was that there was no drama in the end. Not spoil it for you but it comes down to Alex and Tommy at the end. The winner gets the 8 mil while the ‘loser’ gets a paltry 4 million. Since both characters are reasonably pleasant, there is no real antagonist here and since they both win no matter what the cards are, where’s the drama? There is none. No tension, no thrill, no nothing. And most importantly, there is absolutely no reason for anybody to watch ‘Deal’.

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