I have seen my share of “narco” movies, and I went into this one with much cynicism that one would expect from a critic who has seen a lot. That said; I found myself compelled and somewhat riveted with the story and characters. I have actually never seen a movie that actually deals with the “downside” of marijuana legalization, on the part of the illegal distributors who had already placed all of their eggs in one basket just to have the rug pulled from underneath them. Writer/director Jonathan Salemi tells one such story with a movie that delivers lots of palpable tension and dread when one last desperate attempt at salvaging an illegal career gets derailed.

Anthony Molinari stars as Vincent, a black market dealer of cannabis faced with the legalization of his product in California. While that sounds like a blessing, it turns out that, with the new laws, come very strict regulations which make it very difficult to continue. Vincent, who cannot seem to acquire the licence he needs to carry on his business on the level, ultimately decides to make one last big purchase and sale, and get out once and for all. However, when said deal goes very wrong, he becomes indebted to a threatening loan shark who fronted some of the money for his last purchase. With the clock ticking, and his life and the life of his girlfriend, Tabitha (Jeffri Lauren) on the line, Vincent desperately attempts to find the villains responsible for his dilemma, or “take care of” the violent creditors wanting their money back.

Though this movie obviously has a low budget, the assured direction and solid writing of Salemi make this movie feel all the more real and Vincent’s situation quite consequential. The solid performances by the cast also help sell the premise scenarios very well, with Anthony Molinari and Mister Fitzgerald (as his business partner, Bobby) being the genuine standouts in the film. Salemi and his cast and crew do a great job of building the tension and dread, but also make one particular odd choice, in the story, which feels somewhat out of place, given the grand scheme of things.

Still, I was actually moderately impressed with how well this little-movie-that-could sold me on the seriousness of its story, and how such big, and political changes in drug legislation can impact the little people. That is not to say that I think drug legalization is bad, nor do I believe that illegal drug dealers are completely in the right, but I can feel for people struggling to achieve some semblance of what is usually sold as the American dream.

The Last Deal is currently playing in select theaters and is also available On Demand.

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