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Deceived (1991)

Kino // PG-13 // April 10, 2018
List Price: $16.44 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted May 1, 2018 | E-mail the Author

Comedic actors don't always transition seamlessly to serious dramatic roles, and very few have done it as well as Robin Williams in Insomnia, Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, or Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Goldie Hawn, partially due to her early career appearances as a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, was likewise often featured in big-screen comedies such as Cactus Flower, Shampoo, and Private Benjamin, despite the occasional dramatic diversion such as The Sugarland Express. Yet she too was able to make the adjustment for Damian Harris' Deceived (1991), a thriller based around one woman's realization that her loving, devoted husband has led a double life.

Hawn plays Adrienne Saunders, a restoration specialist who hits it off with art dealer Jack Saunders (John Heard, between Home Alone films) -- and before long, we flash-forward six years to their daughter Mary's fifth birthday. Their lives appear idyllic: Mary's quite possibly the best-behaved daughter of all time, Jack's a sweet dad, their careers are going great, and they've even got a spacious Manhattan apartment complete with housekeeper. Yet the whirlwind romance shows a few seams almost as quickly: their museum curator friend Tomasz (Jan Rubes) dies in an apparent suicide, and a valuable piece of jewelry acquired by Jack turns out to be a counterfeit. If that weren't enough, Adrienne's loving husband was recently seen around town after claiming to be out-of-state on business, while a number of other questionable purchases raises all sorts of red flags. Soon enough, the determined Adrienne does a little more digging, eventually finding out that Jack is also "Frank Sullivan" -- and when a lie that big is uncovered, you know there's more to come.

For better and for worse, Deceived feels like two movies in one where the better one plays first. That's not surprising, of course: originally penned by Mary Agnes Donoghue (Beaches), it was eventually re-written by Bruce Joel Rubin (Jacob's Ladder, Ghost) with distinct changes made to the two main characters. Exact details of these different versions are a little vague, but it's pretty obvious that the end result can't help but show a few seams: not only does Deceived depend too much on a few major plot twists, but it's slightly overstuffed with supporting characters (at least one of which is a red herring) and devolves into a cliched slasher-movie climax that doesn't do it any favors. Yet the bulk of Deceived either runs smoothly or gets by on great performances, strong cinematography, and a memorable score by Thomas Newman that helps tie everything together. Though it didn't connect with critics in 1991, Deceived did well enough at the box office and, in my opinion, holds up surprisingly well despite a few obvious speed bumps along the way.

Luckily enough, Kino's new Blu-ray presentation of Deceived offers a much better level of support than the film's received on home video thus far: it was last issued on DVD by Mill Creek in 2003 with a lackluster A/V presentation and absolutely no bonus features. This isn't exactly a fully-loaded Collector's Edition, but Kino's new 1080p transfer is well above average for a catalog title and it also arrives with a brand-new director's audio commentary. Whether you're up for a rental or eager to replace your DVD, Kino's Blu-ray is a welcome upgrade for this small but satisfying thriller.

The last time I saw Deceived was on VHS...and though it's pretty clear that Kino's new single-layer Blu-ray isn't sourced from a brand-new scan (or at least isn't advertised as such), the end result is still more than passable. Quite impressive in spots, even. I'll give most of the credit to outstanding cinematography by Jack Green: Deceived was obviously shot with great care and Kino's Blu-ray amplifies his strong use of shadows and great location footage. This 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer features a clean and stable image that's largely free of digital imperfections such as interlacing and compression artifacts, although some rather obvious noise reduction was spotted during a few indoor scenes. Image detail and textures are pleasing, the subdued color palette holds up nicely, a noticeable but non-intrusive layer of grain is present, and black levels look good. A fresh scan would have yielded even better results, but I'm not disappointed.

DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized promotional images are decorative and do not represent the title under review.

Likewise, the DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track makes good use of its source material. Deceived sounds fairly strong at times with crisp dialogue and well-balanced effects and music, not to mention obvious moments of separation that give certain sequences a wide-open atmosphere. There are stray moments of lesser quality (possibly due to on-set recording issues not corrected with ADR), but these are few and far between. Low frequency effects are limited but occasionally noticeable, especially during Thomas Newman's music cues. Optional English subtitles are included.

The static menu interface includes options for playback, chapter selection (eight total), subtitle setup, and bonus features, with quick loading time and few pre-menu distractions. As with most Kino catalog releases, this one-disc package arrives in a standard keepcase which includes poster-themed cover artwork and a promotional booklet.

The main attraction here is a solo feature-length Audio Commentary with director Damian Harris, which appears to be exclusive to this Blu-ray; a handful of early-2000 DVDs were released in the US and abroad, but they were all completely barebones. Topics of discussion during this track include the original story and script revisions, Thomas Newman's excellent score, casting Goldie Hawn, Jack Green's cinematography, general development and production, and much more. Overall, it's a solid track and, though a second participant would have livened things up a little, fans will certainly want to give this a listen. Also included is the film's Theatrical Trailer in rough-looking 1.33:1 format.

Damian Harris' Deceived isn't exactly a flawless thriller, thanks to a number of all-too-convenient plot twists, horror movie clich├ęs, and a climax that's more than a little overcooked. But it's still a capably entertaining production that's held up surprisingly well since 1991, mostly due to its committed lead performance, strong cinematography, and a memorable score by Thomas Newman. Simply put, there's still a lot to like about Deceived and Kino's Blu-ray should appeal to die-hard fans and newcomers alike, offering a solid A/V presentation and a new director's commentary that sweetens the pot even further. It's not exactly run-out-and-buy material, but thriller fans could do a lot worse -- Deceived is worth at least a rental by itself, so I'll give it a courtesy bump for the technical merits and replay value. Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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