Release Date: April 25
Director: Marcel Langenegger
Writer: Mark Bomback
Cinematographer: Dante Spinotti
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor, Michelle Williams
Studio/Run Time: Twentieth Century Fox, 108 mins.
Deception, a new film starring Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman, is being billed as a steamy thriller, but most of the mist dissipates in the first half hour. McGregor plays Jonathan McQuarry, a junior accountant who's auditing a law firm. He works well into the night, doesn’t have a family, and doesn't have much of a social life, but Wyatt Bose (Jackman) can help. Wyatt's been around the block, plays tennis, enjoys the company of the ladies, and—lucky for McQuarry—works at the firm being audited, or so it seems. The occasional cutaways to people who don't seem to know Wyatt are none too subtle.
And that's the theme of the film. Each twist is preceded by a couple of fairly obvious clues, but the film lingers on the plot turns as if they're unexpected then explains them to us, nice and slow. What it doesn't explain is why McQuarry turns away from the police and becomes an amateur sleuth when he needs to solve the mystery of the missing girl, the unknown assailant, and the anonymous sex ring (that's the steamy part). Granted, thrillers usually explain their aversion to cops with a simple threat ("If you go to the police, she's dead. I'm watching you."), so omitting it might seem economical in the right film.
But this film isn't economical. It’s sluggish when it should be nimble, explanatory when things are clear, and loose with logic when rigor would be more apt.
It does have a few neat ideas, though, and it occasionally seems capable of rising above its basic plot. For example, the visuals of Manhattan’s glass and grids harmonize nicely with the idea of overworked, highly paid workers who turn to their cell phones for anonymous sex. The work of the accountant is a column of numbers, and so are the entries in his address book. When the great British actress Charlotte Rampling (Swimming Pool, Heading South) turned up, I was suddenly optimistic. With heavy eyes and an icy smile, she has a knack for elevating unconvincing movies, but her appearance in Deception is too brief for her magic to extend beyond a few incidental scenes.
In a larger role than Rampling, Michelle Williams is also a welcome presence, but the movie's failing isn't in the production. It’s in the persistent attempt to be clever without quite delivering the goods.