I have to admit that The Last Deal really isn't my kind of film, though as a film journalist I'll also confess that I watch more than my fair share of films that I wouldn't pay my own dime to see. Sometimes, however, I'm wrong and The Last Deal ends up being one of those times.
Based on a true story, writer/director Jonathan Salemi's crime thriller is set in a post-Prop 64 world where marijuana has been decriminalized and those who were once the "haves" become the "have nots." One such fellow is Vincent (Anthony Molinari), whose previous jet-setting lifestyle has come to a screeching halt as his medicinal weed business is now essentially irrelevant. He's not much more than a courier now and that's a mighty steep fall. When his partner, Bobby (Mister Fitzgerald), comes to him with the possibility for one big last deal that could save the business and even get him ahead it's too good to resist. Unable to completely handle the score himself, he turns to the Boss (Sala Baker) seeking a buy-in.
Just looking at the Boss, this seems like a bad idea.
Everything has to go right. Of course, it doesn't.
Available now on VOD, The Last Deal picked up prizes along its festival journey at Boston International Film Festival (Best Director, Feature Film) and San Antonio Film Festival (Best Performance for Molinari) before heading into a limited theatrical release with indie distributor Scatena & Rosner Films. Now available on streaming, The Last Deal will hopefully reach the much wider audience it so richly deserves.
The Last Deal is that rare convincing low-budget action flick that soars on the strength of a talented production crew and incredibly strong ensemble led by stunt man/actor Molinari. With almost a couple hundred stunt credits, there's literally no doubt you've seen Molinari's work but The Last Deal makes it perfectly clear that he's leading man material. Salemi's script is substantial, both convincing as an action flick and as a cultural statement. If you don't get the film's messages, you're likely not paying close enough attention.
Molinari's Vincent is a seriously complex dude. While The Last Deal is set smack-dab in the world of crime and there's no doubt Vincent has made his share of bad choices, he's a relatable guy whose down to earth qualities radiate a strange sense of normalcy amidst it all. You can't help but like the guy. He's essentially a good guy to Tabitha (Jeffri Lauren) and pretty much to everyone until he gets in over his head and starts getting double and triple-crossed. He kind of reminds me of John Wick, though with much less violence. There's an inner spark inside him and we see his light no matter how dark he has to get.
Salemi started to lose me a bit in the final third, however, by then The Last Deal had kept me so captivated that all was forgiven.
Among the supporting players, Mister Fitzgerald shines as the edgier than Vincent Bobby and Jeffri Lauren, Orion McCabe, and Sala Baker all turn in memorable performances. Again, however, there's not really a weak link among the key players.
Lensing by Dominic Lopez is precise and sharp throughout. L.A. looks like L.A. ought to look in this kind of film. There's sort of a majestic grit going on here and The Last Deal is a beautiful film to watch. Tony Fiala's original score also serves as a perfect companion to the film's emotionally resonant action.
I'd love to see what Salemi could do with a bigger budget. His work here is impressive and if there's any justice in the cinematic world Hollywood is watching and will be knocking on his door.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic