April 27, 2008

Movie Review: Deception

Deception is an erotic thriller that never lets its eroticism loose and never actually delivers genuine thrills. It is a movie that brings to mind films as diverse as Basic Instinct and Swordfish, even with a touch of Brick. The problem is that it is not nearly as entertaining as any of those films; it is closer in execution to Basic Instinct 2. In the end, the outcome of Deception is a shame as there are definite seeds for an effective erotic thriller, but that would have involved crafting characters with a modicum of intelligence. Rather than play up the elements that could have made this stand out, screenwriter Mark Bomback saw fit to stick with the mundane and the unintelligent elements. On the positive side, it is moderately entertaining to watch the leads do absolutely everything in their power to inject some sort of life into the film.

Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) is a nerdy accountant who makes annual rounds through a number of high-powered clients, making sure their books are balanced. Considering his job, he is not exactly a welcome face around these offices, add in the long hours and you have a man with living a lonely existence. Late one night, Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman), a lawyer working for the firm, extends a hand (and a joint) of friendship to the under appreciated accountant. Soon thereafter, Jon is being introduced to fine suits and late nights on the town. Sure, things like this happen all the time, right? Well, the plot thickens when the duo accidentally swap phones. Was it truly accidental? What is the likelihood of that happening, what with the great variety of models and ring tones? Whatever, it happened, and we need to accept that so as to move forward with the plot.

No sooner has the phone swap happened that Wyatt skips town, leaving Jon in the lurch with someone else's phone, and a growing realization that Wyatt may not be who he says he is. However, before that knowledge can truly take hold, Jon receives a strange phone call requesting that he be at a certain hotel that evening. This is Jon's introduction to "the list," an anonymous sex group populated by high-powered men and women looking for intimacy without entanglement. Jon's eyes are opened to a new world and he takes full advantage of it.

Complications arise when he meets a young woman (Michelle Williams), known only as S, whom he has seen in the past. He has a growing infatuation with her, meeting a few times, and breaking every rule of "the list." Then, suddenly she disappears, leaving Jon with plenty of questions, not to mention the police having questions for him. This is when the bigger picture begins to come into focus.

At the center of this growing mystery is Wyatt, and a plot to take advantage of Jon and his job. This is where everything begins to unravel as far as the movie is concerned. The focus shifts and it immediately becomes less interesting. Do have any idea how exciting watching an electronic funds transfer is? Trust me, not very, especially after learning of "the list."

If only Mark Bomback had centered his story on "the list" and the case of the missing girl, this could have been an involving thriller, particularly with the cast of players involved and their collective skills. The problems arise early with the Wyatt/Jon interactions, they just do not ring true, there is something phony about them, particularly in how Wyatt approaches Jon, I did not buy it. The problems are compounded the moment they step away from "the list" and into the world of corporate robbery. This shift felt hollow and unnecessary, especially considering the delicious mystery that was building early on. Can you say frustrating?

On the positive side, the acting is actually quite good. Ewan McGregor is solid as our central character. Watching him play the nebbish accountant as he unwinds and discovers a different part of himself is quite interesting to watch. Even more interesting than that is watching his interactions with S, the way he acts with her, the way he looks at her, it is some strong work. Playing his opposite, is Hugh Jackman, who sinks his teeth into the villainous role. It does not have the subtlety, but it does provide some nice scenery-chewing work for Jackman. Michelle Williams plays the third or our primary trio, and the screen just lights up when she is within the frame. I have not seen much of her work in the past, but she displays some great screen presence. Hopefully this will lead to better things for her.

Bottomline. Frustrating is a good word. The acting is good, the concept of the sex club is intriguing, but when it plays out as an electronic robbery I cannot help but be disappointed in the outcome and frustrated by the potential of the early goings on.

Not Recommended.


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