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Sunday, February 20, 2011

DECEPTION (2008) - REVIEW




When you go to the movies, the title is the first thing that helps you decide what you want to see. Something as simple as a single word can make a world of diference. Sometimes a title just reaches out and grabs you. You feel compelled to watch a movie, because you like the title. Now, if titles are any indication of the type of movie you are about to see, then "Deception" is probably one of the most accurately titled, because the one and only thing that this slick sex-thriller is actually good at is deceiving the audience into thinking that it's worth watching.

Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGreggor) is an accountant who joylessly audits company finances. He claims he loves his job, but then he himself admits that life seems to pass him by. He obviously yearns for something different in his life and he's more than a little frustrated by it. One fateful night, while working late, he befriends Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman), a charismatic lawyer. They share a joint, talk about life and spend a jolly good time together. Wyatt acts out as a sort of mentor for the meek Jonathan, teaching him the ways of success and how to obtain it. He introduces Jonathan to "The List", a sex club for wealthy individuals of both genders, who only want a good roll in the hay every once in a while. Jonathan gets addicted to the List and the empowerement it offers. He even falls in love with a young woman, played by Michelle Williams, which is totally against the rules (...first rule of sex club...). But things aren't what they seem to be, and that's when the movie drops the ball and switches from intriguingly-psychological erotic-drama to retarded-thriller.

Wyatt proves to have a special interest in Jonathan's access to a certain company's financial records. The young woman that Jonathan likes so much is kidnapped and he unwittingly becomes a pawn in a heist scheme. Not that you don't see it coming. Even the title hints at some ominous conspiracy. The problem, though, is with the contrast in the filmmaker's intentions. While the New York sex club bit has a strange Kubrik appeal to it and exerts considerable erotic energy mixed with a sense of social decay, when the movie shifts to caring only about nonsensical plot twists and tense close-ups of the actor's faces, it loses all credibility and intelligence. It asks the audience to believe the direction the plot is moving towards, but well before the credits start rolling, you've already rolled your eyes at several crucial scenes. Worst of all, the plot isn't just incredibly puerile, but it's also incredibly ill timed. The finale in particular is so overly long and pseudo-intense that it loses momentum and fails to generate the payoff that movies like this usually feed us by habit.

The actors are not to be faulted. They do the very best they can with the sordid material. So do cinematographer Dante Spinotti, editor Christian Wagner and composer Ramin Djawadi. Everyone involved makes the movie, look, feel and sound just right. In fact, they make the movie bearable. The responsability for this failure must be handed entirely over to the director and the screenwriter. They seemed to have a good idea on their hands and with such talented cast and crew, it's nothing short of a capital sin to screw it up so badly.




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