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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Deception

I love deception with a little‘d’. Lies, betrayal, a trail of devastation in the wake of whatever evil deed has been done. You know, the stuff that “Dateline: NBC” features every week. The more commandments broken the juicier the story as far as I’m concerned. As a matter of fact, I’m a little disappointed in how tame the Ten Commandments actually are. Half of them are ignored by the majority of the population these days on a regular basis and nobody says a thing. Honoring false gods? Oh please, have parents paid any attention to the fact that their children spend more time worshipping Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers than they ever do even vaguely thinking about God. The only time they hear about God is when it is followed by “damn” and that is coming out of their parents’ mouths when they are ignoring the commandment about not taking the Lord’s name in vain. Maybe they’re cursing though for a reason. It could be because the folks next door got a new Mercedes or because some hot babe just moved in across the street, and they’re breaking one or the other of those “coveting” commandments, not that they’d admit it, of course, thus breaking the one that demands that they don’t lie. Not that the kids probably care because most of them, especially teenagers, think their parents are idiotic ATMs, so there goes the “Honor your Father and Mother” commandment as well.

So what’s left to make for a big whoop-de-doo in our culture? Murder, adultery and theft, theft, adultery and murder. The old staples of many a thriller and
Deception is just one more. I had high hopes for Deception. After all, it stars two of my delectable future ex-husbands, Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor, both doing their best at dueling American accents, but something here just doesn’t click.

I have to put the blame on first time director Marcel Langenegger, who has taken an original script by Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard) and turned what should have been a fast-paced cat-and-mouse game of life and death into a gloomy and glacially-paced character study. The protagonist, Jonathan McQuarry (McGregor; Incendiary) is an accounting auditor who moves from company to company in the high rise power towers of Wall Street, never making friends as he works alone behind glass walls, causing stress to those employees he meets who fear he is there to discover their mistakes and call attention to their errors. He lives alone in a modest apartment and leads a lonely, dull life in front of the tv each night. You get the idea. Yeah, well so did I, and it didn’t take the half an hour Langenegger seemed to feel necessary to set the scene, if you get my point.

Along comes happy-go-lucky, slick, charming, Wyatt Bose (Jackman; Uncle Jonny), an international attorney who “accidently” meets Jonathan at one of his work sites and the two become fast friends. They bond over marijuana and a series of lunches as well as Wyatt’s insistence in mentoring the schlubby Jonathan by giving him a $4,000 suit and trying to introduce him to the better things in life. Okay, so it’s a set-up, and it’s so obviously a set-up, but before it can go anywhere pertinent to the plot Langenegger brings things to a grinding halt by introducing a wholly unnecessary sub-plot about a sex club that Wyatt belongs to and Jonathan is swept up in when the two men “conveniently” (again with the accidents?) pick up one another’s cell phones by mistake just before Wyatt leaves for Europe on an extended trip. Now forced to use Wyatt’s phone, Jonathan begins answering calls from women requesting anonymous sex. What follows is a prolonged and somewhat dull soft-core porn collage of Ewan McGregor in bed with a variety of women, most of who are shot from the rear and so are truly anonymous even to the audience. The only interesting part of this whole sequence is at its end when we discover Jonathan, post-coitus, conversing with the only one of the models on parade who doesn’t look like she came directly from the pages of Playboy. As a matter of fact, this Wall Street Belle (Charlotte Rampling; Basic Instinct 2) is old enough to be his mother, and it comes as quite a jolt to imagine that they, or rather, he, would have done the deed considering his previous bevy of beauties. What I was mostly left pondering about this segment of the movie was the fact that supposedly all of the women involved in this ring were top CEOs and such from Fortune 500 companies and how every one of them except Ms. Rampling looked to be under 30 and more like a Hooters girl than a stock analyst. Who’d have thunk, huh?

Eventually, the actual reason for all of this is revealed and so much of it seems superfluous other than the introduction of the obligatory (alleged) damsel in distress, known only as “S” (Michelle Williams; also of Incendiary), which could have been done much faster and without the dead weight of the sex club scenario. I wouldn’t have objected to the sex club bit half so much if Langenegger had offered some variety of women and locale to the mix and at least changed the damned lighting! That’s probably my second biggest gripe with the whole movie. Besides being so slow, everything looks like it is lit with a 40 watt bulb. No matter where anyone goes, the rooms are dark and dreary, even when Jonathan is at work. Those buildings are full of bright fluorescent lights, but he seems to be behind tinted glass and looks out at a dark world. It’s depressing.


The actual cross and double-cross routines that are inevitable makes for a fun last half-hour and it has a decidedly different feel to it than the rest of the picture as the entire production moves to Spain and most of the action occurs outside on the streets of Madrid, in the blessed sunlight. I’m
not sure I could actually encourage anyone to sit through the first hour or so of this snoozer, but even without the background established in that time the action at the end is self-explanatory and easy enough to quickly figure out who’s zooming who. The only mystery that remains until the last crucial moment is on what side “S” belongs. Why she is so desired by both men is beyond me, but apparently she is. No offense to Williams, but she’s not that beautiful and here she seems more sullen than anything else. But, hey, I guess it just brings us back to coveting once again.
If anyone asks me to see
Deception again I think I’ll just spend that time working on updating my list of Commandments. I know I’m not God, so don’t get your panties in a bunch, but it wouldn’t hurt to add a few more for our modern times, starting with something like: Thou Shalt Live in Peace.

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