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With: Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Natasha Henstridge, Charlotte Rampling, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Maggie Q, Bruce Altman
Written by: Mark Bomback
Directed by: Marcel Langenegger
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language, brief violence and some drug use
Running Time: 108
Date: 04/24/2008

Deception (2008)

2 Stars (out of 4)

No Accounting for Waste

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The title Deception has been used many times for movies. It was bestowed upon an Ernst Lubitsch import in 1921, and it graced a popular Bette Davis vehicle in 1946. It has also been used for everything from straight-to-video fodder to porn. The new Deception, written by Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard) and directed by rookie Marcel Langenegger, falls somewhere in the middle of these. It's a twisty, sexy thriller, using recycled, familiar twists. A shy, reserved accountant, Jonathan McQuarry meets a dashing, outgoing lawyer Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman) and they become friends; Wyatt takes steps to coax Jonathan out of his shell. But when their cell phones get switched, Jonathan begins receiving calls from women asking him to meet them in hotel rooms. On one rendezvous, he meets a beautiful blonde (Michelle Williams), with whom he feels a connection (he spoke with her on the subway once). Of course, it's all too good to be true, and anyone who's ever seen any kind of twisty thriller will know who's in on it, how and why. Even Dante Spinotti's chilly cinematography, which emphasizes glass and reflections and nighttime (with blues and grays), is nothing surprising.

But the reason Deception rises slightly above the usual level of junk is McGregor. Hollywood loves these repressed types of characters (see Smart People or Starting Out in the Evening), but actors rarely know how to play them; usually they use external acting tricks to emphasize their internal torment and they end up lagging a few steps behind the audience. But McGregor finds a canny balance between his shyness and his desire to overcome it. He doesn't have a strong personality; rather than keeping the same tempo throughout, Jonathan reacts to other characters as he believes they would like to be reacted to. As a result, Jackman and McGregor share an easy, appealing chemistry during the film's setup. Williams, too, lends intelligence to her beauty and effectively sells her scenes with McGregor. It's too bad that Jackman, who co-produced the film, couldn't likewise find something to suit his own talents.

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