'The Deal'

Directed by Harvey Kahn
Front Street, opens June 17, Loews 34th Street

Opening with a quote from Napoleon, The Deal announces ambitions on a scale belying its meager budget. Against the backdrop of a war between the U.S. and the "Confederation of Arab States," Christian Slater plays a hotshot banker assigned to broker a merger involving a Russian oil company with Mafia ties. The thriller plot sputters and the romance between Slater and eco-friendly Harvard MBA Selma Blair is a nonstarter, but the movie's threadbare execution actually enhances its queasy vision of a nation in decline. World events intrude via fleeting snatches of radio and TV newscasts (a strategy reminiscent of last year's Manchurian Candidate remake) but despite the near-future setting The Deal feels oddly like a Cold War throwback—anyone with a Russian accent is to be regarded with suspicion. Surprisingly cogent in its political analysis for much of the way, The Deal falters with a halfhearted endorsement of incremental reform, proving not quite to have the courage of its own cynicism. JOSHUA LAND

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