This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
"The Deal" is a thriller about Wall Street insiders, set during an oil crisis a few years in the future. The United States is at war with the "Confederation of Arab States," gas is $6 a gallon and getting more expensive, and there's enormous pressure to find new sources for oil. More than most thrillers, this one seems to be based on expert insights; its author, Ruth Epstein, wrote the screenplay against a background of Wall Street experience, and its view of boardroom politics has a convincing level of detail. It's not in every thriller that you hear, someone say, "Oil is a fungible commodity."
Christian Slater stars as Tom Hanson, an associate with an old-line Wall Street investment firm that has kept its reputation during a period of corporate scandals. That's why the firm is attractive to the giant Condor Corp. and its sleek president Jared Tolson (Robert Loggia, never scarier than when he smiles). Condor wants to merge with Black Star, a privately held Russian oil company that controls massive oil reserves.
We know from the start that the deal is fishy, because at the top of the film a lawyer tells Tolson he can't continue to work on the deal; a few hours later the lawyer is shot dead. Hanson, the Slater character, is brought in as his replacement. His assignment: Perform due diligence to be sure Black Star is sound, and the merger is in the best interests of Condor's shareholders.
The movie surrounds this main story line with several other intersecting strands, of which the most interesting involves young Abbey Gallagher (Selma Blair), a graduate student and "tree hugger" from Harvard who is recruited by Hanson to join his firm on the grounds that she can get a better hearing for her environmental concerns from inside the establishment. Blair does specific things with her character that are interesting; she makes Abbey not one of those Harvard superhumans but a sincere, sometimes naive young woman who could use some social polish. Soon she is working with Hanson, and although they are indeed attracted to each other, romance is not the focus of this movie.