Fox // R // $39.98 // September 23, 2008
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 14, 2008
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Graphical Version Review:

A chilly drama with a slightly dream-like quality, "Deception" - despite its impressive cast - was largely overlooked during a brief run in theatres. The picture, directed by first-timer Marcel Langenegger, stars Ewan McGregor as Jonathan McQuarry, an accountant who keeps to himself and spends much of his life focused on his work. When he's not in the office, he lives in a small, bland apartment that has a leak.

One day at the office, he's approached by Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman, who - for whatever reason, reminds me a lot of a '90's John Travolta in this role), a lawyer who strikes up a conversation with Jonathan after a long night of work. The two quickly become pals, and it's not long before Wyatt is introducing the rather meek Jonathan to things like strip clubs, tennis at country clubs and eventually, a secret and exclusive sex club.

Jonathan soon finds himself using the service like a kid in a candy store, meeting up with a series of women (including characters played by Nastasha Henstridge and Charlotte Rampling) before meeting one named "S" (Michelle Williams) who he falls for. The two spend much of their time together simply talking.

However, the rug is quickly pulled out from under Jonathan when "S" is taken and Wyatt...well, just may not be who he says he is. However, this occurs about 45 minutes into the picture and, by this time, most viewers will have simply been waiting around for the inevitable "twist" to occur. Jackman's character re-appears, only to blackmail Jonathan. Jonathan, previously mild-mannered, has to find it within him to try and turn the tables. Unfortunately, with a couple of brief exceptions, Jonathan remains one of the dopier movie characters in recent memory - right up until the end. I guess at least he's consistent.

The film's main issue is not the performances (which are decent), or the visual style (this is the most gorgeous looking B-movie I've seen in quite some time), but the screenplay. Not only are there some pretty giant plot holes, but there's some pretty terrible dialogue scattered throughout, too.

While the screenplay is really ridiculous (and gets even more absurd towards the end), "Deception" remains one of the most gorgeous B-movies I've seen in quite some time. While there's not much else to like about the movie, ace cinematographer Dante Spinotti (maybe producer Hugh Jackman was able to get Spinotti, given that both worked on the third "X-Men" film?) at least creates a series of one memorable image after another, such as a gorgeous moment where snowflakes drift softly towards the ground as McGregor steps out of a Chinatown hotel and out into the NYC night.

There's another scene in Chinatown between McGregor and Williams that is one of the more beautifully filmed sequences in the picture, yet the exchange between the two characters is almost laughable because the dialogue is so clunky. The movie simply has a gorgeous visual style, but I likely would have found the film more enjoyable with the sound off.


VIDEO: "Deception" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). The film's cinematography is exceptional and the visual style of the picture is presented superbly on this solid Blu-Ray release. Sharpness and detail remained marvelous throughout the program and small object (hairs, clothing, small set or location details) detail remained impressive throughout most scenes.

While some slight edge enhancement and noise were seen in a handful of scenes, the picture looked largely clean and crisp, with no print flaws or other concerns. The film's color palette varied, as some of the sleek office exteriors remained cool and subdued. However, scenes like those in Chinatown, a club and elsewhere showed warmer, bolder colors. Colors did appear accurately presented, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, this was a very fine transfer.

SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 5.1. This is largely a dialogue-driven picture and, as a result, the film's sound mix doesn't go beyond the bare minimum. While the rear speakers do come into play for some music during a club sequence and on a few occasions for slight ambience, the surrounds are otherwise silent. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and score.

EXTRAS: A commentary by Marcel Langenegger is included on the Blu-Ray, although I have to say it proved a difficult listen, as the director seemed to spend a good deal of time offering play-by-play. While there were a few interesting production tidbits thrown out, this track was largely a yawner.

A few deleted scenes (including an alternate ending) are included here, with optional commentary. The alternate ending isn't great, but at least it seems a little less ridiculous due to one major change. 'Club Sexy' and 'Exposing Deception' are two mid-sized featurettes - the first is an exploration of real-life sex clubs (complete with a discussion from a therapist, no less) and the second an ordinary 'making of' featurette. 'Dissecting Deception' is a picture-in-picture feature that consists of 14 short pieces that take a look at the making of major scenes. We also get a couple of promos for other Fox titles.

Final Thoughts: "Deception" offers a fine cast (Williams is especially good in a minor role, McGregor and Jackman are just okay) and impressive visuals, but the screenplay is weak enough that I'm surprised the filmmakers went ahead with it without some serious overhauling. The Blu-Ray edition boasts excellent video quality, fine sound and a surprisingly decent - for a movie that was largely overlooked in theatres - amount of extras. Still, I'd say skip it.

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