Written by: Adam Vaughn | February 6th, 2023
The Last Deal (Jonathan Salemi, 2023) 2 out of 4 stars.
At first glance, I found The Last Deal a fascinating, potentially ambitious look at modern society, in a world where marijuana goes from underground drug to fully legal medicinal entity. Director Jonathan Salemi’s suspenseful drama about changing times finds its main character, Vincent (Anthony Molinari, Tenet) struggling to keep his formerly lucrative but illegal weed business afloat, alongside his business partner and friend Bobby (Mister Fitzgerald). With his relationship with girlfriend Tabitha (Jeffri Lauren) crumbling, Vincent turns to dangerous syndicates for loans, only to find that his decisions come with deadly consequences.
Salemi’s opening to The Last Deal is perhaps the strongest, most intriguing element to the film, with rapid editing through its exposition, yet fully portraying a unique era in American history, where a once-illegal substance becomes legal, turning the black market upside down. It also perfectly sets the tone for the main characters and launches us right into the conflict. As the story progresses, Vincent dives into a Breaking Bad-style predicament where he is forced to confront villainous characters, including “The Boss” (Sala Baker, Braven), who loans money to Vincent and Bobby, and “The Associate” (Mike Ferguson, Amber Road), who enforces rules with vicious resolve.
As gripping as the film may be, at times, Salemi (A Truth in Silence) fails at capturing genuinely memorable moments in the latter half of the story. Several side-plot moments, including Vincent going to see his mother and dodging his mother’s flirtatious assistant are never fully followed through, and slow down momentum. Furthermore, the final resolutions waver between senseless—a surprising character bites the dust in a highly unfavorable way—and predictable, as the hero saves the day and all is well. The final imagery is Vincent working legally at a dispensary, which, in all honesty, seemed like the smartest move to begin with. But then again, there’d be no story if the hero had come to his senses earlier.
While The Last Deal inevitably becomes a formulaic crime drama, Salemi still tackles interesting content, and opens the door for films to explore the new cannabis businesses in the United States. Yet The Last Deal simply falls short in both production value and storytelling, becoming sluggish in moments and conventional at others. I predict that it will not stand any test of time, even if it is grounded in solid premises.