Movie Review: Tromperie
By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
It takes more than a middle-period-Hitler haircut and a pair of late-'90s specs to render Ewan McGregor unto dweebdom. The actor may have undertaken one too many nude scenes in his career to convincingly inhabit the soul of a mouse, even a mouse morphing into a rutting, wolfish Lothario.
In the very silly thriller "Deception," McGregor plays a socially maladroit auditor who has a chance meeting (or is it?) with a flashy corporate lawyer (or is he?) played by Hugh Jackman. In the blink of a narrative eye Jackman's Wyatt Bose befriends McGregor's Jonathan McQuarry. He introduces him to the chic attractions of a super-secret sex club known as The List, where it's all about swanky hotels and anonymity and improbable lingerie. The members of The List are all New York workaholics looking for what one Wall Street whiz calls "intimacy without intricacy." Charlotte Rampling utters that line with a wised-up Continental air. After you've been through "The Night Porter" and "Basic Instinct 2," as Rampling has, what's love got to do with anything?
The director is Marcel Langenegger, who cannot get enough of the chilly, icy blues and grays in the urban Manhattan jungle. (He and cinematographer Dante Spinotti shot most of the daylight sequences on traditional film, and the nocturnal scenes on digital video.) The first 30 minutes or so hum along on atmosphere and the promise of sexual danger. As thriller storytelling, however, "Deception" cannot get enough of the obvious. Each major story revelation is so flagrantly telegraphed, when the revelations arrive they're more like fax confirmation sheets of what already came through. By the time the action moves to Madrid, for what should be a 10-minute epilogue (it's far longer), Jackman's business-attire Mephistopheles has to explicate some of the clumsiest exposition (something about wire transfers from Hong Kong to Madrid, or something) this side of Donald Sutherland in "JFK."
With her arresting, off-kilter look of bruised desire, Michelle Williams ends up being the most interesting aspect of this somber corn. She plays McQuarry's true love, a woman caught up in The List. So you can find true love in one of these sex clubs!
MPAA rating: R (for sexual content, language, brief violence and some drug use).
Running time: 1:48.
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Wyatt); Ewan McGregor (Jonathan); Michelle Williams ("S").
Directed by Marcel Langenegger; written by Mark Bomback; photographed by Dante Spinotti; edited by Christian Wagner and Douglas Crise; music by Ramin Djawadi; production design by Patrizia von Brandenstein; produced by Arnold Rifkin, John Palermo, Robbie Brenner, David Bushell and Christopher Eberts. A Twentieth Century Fox release.