Fox // 2008 // 107 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 23rd, 2008
What if a mutant and a Jedi Knight joined an anonymous sex club? If steel claws and light sabers make you hot, have I got a flick for you.
Deception is an erotic thriller that looks great but makes no sense. It only works if you've never seen this type of film, and can completely ignore the moth-eaten holes on its tattered, twist-filled plot. It has a sexy cast and was filmed by a legendary director of photography, but they are simply going through the motions of the well-established formula of a softcore Hitchcock rip-off, something Basic Instinct did so much better. Somebody should have called Brian De Palma, because this one owes tons to his Dressed to Kill, but it doesn't have the same glee.
Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor,Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) is an auditor who drifts from company to company just checking the math in the books. He lives alone in Manhattan in a nondescript box apartment that has a leak from the ceiling. One day he meets a dashing lawyer (Hugh Jackman, X-Men: The Last Stand) who seems to want to drag him out of his shell by taking him to play tennis and introducing him to the pleasure of high end strip clubs. Jonathan accidentally picks up his slick friend's cell phone just before he leaves for a trip out of the country, and soon he makes a naughty discovery. There is a sex club that works off an anonymous list, and with this phone Jonathan has access to all the no strings liaisons he can handle. He meets a striking blonde (Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain) through his over-zealous dialing, and begins a romance with a woman he only knows as "S."
Of course, all of this is only an elaborate setup for the inevitable cat and mouse game that will happen when Wolverine takes on Obi Wan Kenobi in a metrosexual dual to the death.
The biggest problem is Deception wants to be smarter than the audience, but even heavy sedation wouldn't impair viewers enough not to figure out where the predictable twists are heading. The script went through many rewrites on its way to the big screen, and seems only to be a vanity project for Hugh Jackman, who helped produce it. The only possible explanation is maybe he needed to make a house payment on a European villa next to George Clooney. First time French director Marcel Langenegger works with a script from Mark Bomback, who is the same guy who gave us the equally groan-worthy Godsend. Ewan McGregor sleepwalks through his part, and his American accent drifts in and out noticeably, which is never a good sign from an otherwise impeccable actor. Michelle Williams looks incredible, but she gets the thankless job of doing a part that required her to take stripping and pole dancing lessons. Jackman merely tries to channel Christian Bale from American Psycho, and chews the set up as if it were made up of sliced honey baked ham. Charlotte Rampling (Basic Instinct 2) and Natasha Henstridge (Species) make naked cameos to up the skin factor and give the sex club an air of much needed class. The actors seem to know they what kind of film they are in, and settle in to wait for this to show up late at night on Cinemax.
Despite any cable aspirations, Fox has loaded up the DVD for Deception with plenty of supplemental material and an alluring technical sheen. A director's commentary provides insight in to the plot and making the film, and is worth a listen to hear how half the picture was put on traditional stock and the other digitally shot. There are two featurettes including a "making of" with all the major players explaining the project, and then there is "Club Sexy" which offers sex experts discussing both the sex club and sexual journey of the lead characters. One of the craziest sights is the making of feature shows footage of Jackman's producing partner, who appears with plucked eyebrows and massive amounts of "guy liner." Also included are three deleted scenes with optional commentary, and one is an entirely different ending that is surprisingly more satisfying and interesting dramatically. Test audiences must have come in during the eleventh hour and picked a more obvious conclusion. Another sequence shows the giggle-inducing original initial meeting of McGregor and Jackman in a bathroom stall.
The transfer is truly well done, and it's no surprise a BluRay release is planned simultaneously. Deception's strongest card is the excellent cinematography by Italian lens man Dante Spinotti (L.A. Confidential) who makes the film look amazing. He blends traditional photography for day shoots seamlessly with digital cameras for night, and the result is a clear crisp image with tons of sexy lighting effects. The surround sound mix also adds a lot to the experience of the DVD utilizing all five speakers extremely well to set the mood and atmosphere. You can't fault the film for looks, and it is a nice visual trip. The production design is smarter than the plot, and the costumes one up anything else.
Silly, sexy, and devoid of any sense, Deception is a stylish bomb of a movie that only offers the thrill of three major actors looking good in Manhattan. What sucks the most is it all works for the first few reels, and gradually falls apart as the narrative rolls along. If they had simply explored the idea of an accountant being seduced in to a dark seedy world of a sex club it could have worked. The bad news is the film tries to be a thriller after the racy scenes drift by, and there truly is nothing it can do to keep the audience engaged when it settles for formulaic twists we see coming miles away. Deception tries to mine the same kinky thrills Basic Instinct or Dressed to Kill offers, but in the end it's just a glossy softcore made-for-cable thriller with a great cast. Buy hey, at least it's pretty to look at.
Guilty of screwing itself silly.
Review content copyright © 2008 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director Commentary
* Making of Featurette
* Featurette on Sex Club
* Deleted Scenes
* Hugh Jackman Fan site
* Ewan McGregor Fan Site