A life of crime looms as potential salvation for two middle-aged family men left high and dry by the economic recession in “Here’s the Deal,” first-time Spanish director Alejandro Marzoa’s nicely understated black comedy. Already ill equipped to navigate the everyday shoals of contemporary society, the longtime friends flounder cluelessly in completely uncharted waters when 10 kilos of cocaine wash up on their favorite fishing beach. The vaudeville-style rapport between the engaging leads keeps the humor light and steers it away from stereotypes, while weightier issues of aging and unemployment hover but never intrude. The pic’s modesty, although welcome artistically, could limit its distribution outside Spain.
Widower Manuel (Miguel de Lira) sits in his model apartment for unsalable condos, surrounded by merchandise bearing the logo of his failed corporation. Meanwhile, his best bud, Suso (Paco Tous), watches as his once-flourishing newsstand now serves as a boarded-up goal for ball-kicking kids; he’s supported by a weekly stipend from his wife’s pompous father (the late Xose Manuel Olveira). Manuel’s and Suso’s loser status even extends to their leisure-time masculine pursuits, as they resort, yet again, to surreptitiously buying their “catch” at the local fish market.
Manuel and Suso’s game-changing moment — their discovery of a fortune in illegal dope — occurs during one of their failed fishing expeditions. Burying their find at the beach and digging it up later, the two initially try to sell the drugs themselves, venturing into fashionable night-spot toilets and offering samples to ecstatic buyers at phenomenally low prices. Wrestling equally with fear, unfamiliarity and genuine scruples, they decide to go straight and give up the goods. But they surrender to a crooked cop and learn that their well-intended bid for respectability has landed them in bed with the big boys.
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Instead of embroiling his in-over-their-heads protagonists in a spiraling web of increasingly dangerous action in time-honored noir tradition, director Marzoa opts to chart the potential transformation of these honorable deadbeats into successful criminals. While the duo’s shady adventures get improbably bogged down in birthday parties for drug lords’ children and trips to EuroDisney, their own domestic situations spin out of control, particularly in the case of Manuel’s upstanding son-in-law-to-be (Unaz Ugalde), who gets hauled off to jail in handcuffs.
Ultimately, Manuel and Suso are pulled back from the brink of success (or, as it turns out, imprisonment) by their innate ordinariness and the limited scope of their ambitions, here celebrated in fine style by two gifted Galacian thesps. Lenser Arnau Valls Colomer’s gentle northern-lit lighting and Curru Garabal’s comfortable production design lend the men’s surroundings an innate serenity that clinches the deal.