May 1, 2008

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Deception (R)
Ewan McGregor is coaxed out of his nerdy accountant shell by dashing lawyer Hugh Jackman only to have his life turned upside down in Deception, a movie that asks you to buy a ticket to see the sex club and stay for the slow-to-unfold mystery.

Jonathan (McGregor) is a sad quiet man with no family, no friends and, because of the nature of his lonely work, not even a cubicle buddy. Jonathan is an accountant who travels from office to office auditing companies but never staying long enough to get to know people. Thusly, when charismatic lawyer Wyatt Bose (Jackman) shows up, Jonathan is all happy blushes and stammered expressions of gratitude. Wyatt takes Jonathan out on the town, getting him drunk and helping him get within proximity of hot girls. Then, after their whirlwind friendship, Wyatt has to go out of town for a few weeks but not before he and Jonathan “accidentally” switch phones. After answering a couple of calls wherein a female voice says “are you free tonight?” Jonathan decides to go with the flow and say yes. He shows up at the appointed place (hotel bar) and appointed hour and proceeds to meet a woman who, after a few seconds of small talk (and a trip up to a room), gets right down to the business of wild passionate sex.

After getting another call or so, Jonathan figures out the rules of this sex club — no names, no business talk, the initiator pays. The women turn out to be some of the most successful members of the New York City business world and Jonathan is all aglow with the excitement of finally getting some (also, possibly of finally just getting someone to talk to him). This all changes, however, when he meets a girl he knows only as S (Michelle Williams), an initial he saw on her key ring. She is The One — he saw her on a subway platform before becoming a sex club stud and now that he gets a chance to meet her, he is all stupid with love.

But alas, the course of true love is never smooth, particularly when it involves a sex club, and soon S vanishes and he fears that something bad has happened to her. He turns to Wyatt for help, looking for his new buddy at the law firm where Jonathan believes he works. But they’re all, Wyatt Bose? Who’s that?

So, SPOILER ALERT: The sense of danger, intrigue and lust surrounding the sex club is all kind of a disappointing dead end. The movie makes a couple of Capital Letter Points about how isolated and vulnerable Jonathan is, setting you up for one kind of suspense, and then jerks you into the salacious world of the sex club only to eventually say, never mind, the mystery is back over here where you thought it was all along. This kind of red herring dangling is annoying — the sex club, as flavors of movie kinkiness go, was rather bland and, after investing a good 25 percent of the movie in uncovering it, it was disappointing that it didn’t turn into something more. Other parts of the story stop cold too, twirling us back to Jonathan and Wyatt and a relationship that is too predictable and not remotely twisted enough to keep the story sparking.

With sort of a let-down story, the actors seemed to follow suit, with performances that seemed less interesting and less nuanced as the movie went on. Yes, Deception is in fact deceiving — but is tricking me into buy a ticket really that great a feat? C-

Rated R for sexual content, language, brief violence and some drug use. Directed by Marcel Langenegger and written by Mark Bomback, Deception is an hour and 48 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by 20th Century Fox.