Dir: Marcel Langenegger. US. 2008. 107 mins.
The spirit of Joe Eszterhas and Adrian Lyne is revived to disappointing results in Deception, a slick, cat-and-mouse thriller that unfolds with sharply-diminishing plausibility. Polished production values and star names will have a limited effect in trying to counteract the old-hat nature of the material and the blunt generic title. Apart from their respective blockbuster franchise roles, neither Hugh Jackman (X Men) or Ewan McGregor (Star Wars) has a strong track record as a box-office draw which suggests a decent opening but little staying power for a film that will find its biggest audience among undemanding DVD viewers.
Commercials director Marcel Langenegger clearly belongs to the school of style over substance and his first feature is a very glossy affair with a fondness for close-ups and A-list craftsmanship provided by Dante Spinotti's sleek visuals and Patrizia von Brandenstein's handsome production design. Deception may prove to be a potboiler but it is a very good looking one.
The real problem with Deception is a screenplay by Mark Bomback and Patrick Marber that is devoid of surprises and prone to cheesy dialogue. Eve ry twist and turn is ploddingly predictable and overly familiar from a slew of recent titles including Derailed. The combination of talents convinces you to give the film the benefit of the doubt at first, but once we know what it really going on Deception quickly runs out of steam and eventually just seems to be going through the motions with very little flair or conviction.
Previously known as both The List and The Tourist, Deception begins in New York where Jonathan McQuarry (McGregor) is a lonely accountant whose life is all work and no play. He is easily befriended by suave lawyer Wyatt Bose (Jackman) even though such an unlikely moniker should surely give anyone pause for suspicion. Wyatt introduces him to a sex club called The List which operates on a policy of 'intimacy without intricacy'. Jonathan is soon one of its busiest clients with his encounters including one with an unbilled Charlotte Rampling who coos: 'I'm a sucker for bashful boys.'
Jonathan then contemplates breaking the rules when he is smitten by a woman he knows only as S (Williams). Inevitably this is all too good to be true but the more the film reveals the more it heads off the rails.
Deception is the first production from Jackman's company Seed and the actor is clearly keen to play against type. He rather overdoes the cackling chumminess of Bose and lacks the killer instinct that might have made the Machiavellian character a more memorable villain. Suggestions of a Ripley-like ability for reinvention are largely unexplored. McGregor is also guilty of overstating the geeky naivety of McQuarry, a man who seems to lack friends or a single emotional connection to the world. Eve n more damning is the lack of chemistry between McGregor and Michelle Williams, who potentially has the most interesting role but the least opportunity to do anything with it. The plot relies on the fact that two brief encounters between McQuarry and S have been sufficient to rock their world and turn their lives upside down but nothing we see on screen convinces us that this is true. The lack of emotional depth in the relationship between these characters fatally undermines the film's credibility or ability to engage.
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Director of photography
Patrizia von Brandenstein