) – Despite its timid title, “Deception
” has all the right ingredients for a decent tale of mystery: a strong premise, sound acting and the famous femme fatale. It even starts with a promising conviction: How does a background player in life deal with initiation into a secret society?
The real mystery is why this strong beginning led to a such weak and conventional conclusion.Ewan McGregor
portrays Jonathan McQuarry: a mousy accountant who specializes in corporate audit assignments. His life is long hours, ever-changing clients and little social reward.
While completing a routine audit at a law firm, he meets an attorney named Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman
). After bonding over tennis and a strip club, Bose lets McQuarry in on a secret: He belongs to “The List”.
The List is a sex club that allows anonymous coupling with no strings attached. It’s used by power brokers who presumably have no time for relationship entanglements.
McQuarry is let in on The List when he accidentally switches phones with Bose and the encounters start ringing him up.
One such encounter – the enigmatic “S” (Michelle Williams
) – gets coerced into further meetings by McQuarry despite the rules against fraternization between members on The List.
Their bonding leads to a closer relationship that triggers several strange occurrences involving kidnapping, blackmail and McQuarry’s knowledge of corporate accounts.
While this is a film about the con, great cons don’t telegraph themselves like this one.
Though three actors with great reputations work hard on their characters, the script gives them highly improbable circumstances on which to settle. While Hugh Jackman seems to be having fun with everything, he doesn’t seem to have the chops to tackle the less savory parts of his character.
Though Michelle Williams gives her “S” persona an appropriate aura, her development afterward is confusing. The List is the coolest and most dangerous element of the film.
There is an amazing montage with McGregor trysting with various ladies including an older sexpot played by veteran Charlotte Rampling
. There seemed to be more happening in the exchange between McGregor and Rampling than the rest of the main story’s complex con game.
That should have been the movie. Another problem was the love story that develops between “S” and McQuarry. Williams plays it like she they were feeding her pages as she went along.
There’s no overall sense that the two have the type of intense, abiding love that would allow for the risk factors to make this whole charade make sense. She is a woman of uncertainty – OK – but she carries that blank slate all the way. The web is simply too tangled in practicing this deception.
“Deception” opened on April 25, 2008.
By PATRICK McDONALD
© 2008 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com