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Deception (2008)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/23/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/25/2008

The Hitchcockian thriller has become such a ubiquitous part of the cinema landscape that we rarely notice them anymore. (And by that I don't mean that we ignore them, we just don't find them all that special.) These movies combine intrigue, backstabbing, desire, and many plot twists. (What were these movie called before Hitchcock became the master?) They typically involve an innocent, probably naive person being drawn into a world which they don't understand. The problem with these films is that audiences have seen so many of them that it's hard to fool them. This is the Achilles' Heel of Deception.

As Deception opens, we are introduced to Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor), a lonely accountant who goes from business-to-business performing audits. He doesn’t have an office and he never stays anywhere long enough to make friends. While working late one night at a law firm, Jonathan meets lawyer Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman) and the two strike up a conversation. Wyatt is the exact opposite of the meek Jonathan; he’s brash, cocky, and extroverted. After seeing each other a few times at the office, Wyatt takes Jonathan to play tennis and then shows him around his lavish apartment. Wyatt announces that he’s going to London on business, and before he leaves, their cell phones are switched. Jonathan begins to receive calls from mysterious women saying “Are you free tonight?”. He finally responds to one of these calls and finds himself having anonymous sex with a beautiful woman. He ascertains that Wyatt belongs to a group of successful individuals who meet just for sex. After meeting several ladies, he has a rendezvous with a woman (Michelle Williams) who is different from the others. He only knows her first initial, “S”, but Jonathan becomes infatuated with her. But, when “S” disappears, Jonathan begins to suspect that all may not be as it seems when it comes to this new world and Wyatt.

Can a Hitchcockian thriller be too Hitchcockian for its own good? The answer is “yes” and Deception proves this point. The plot plays like a variation on Strangers on a Train and from there, it hits all of the cliched high notes. Jonathan is a mild-mannered man who never ventures outside of his comfort zone. Meeting Wyatt changes all of this and Jonathan is forced to try new things. When he becomes obsessed with a blonde (another mainstay of Hitchcock), his world begins to fall apart. A murder which may or may not have occurred can be seen as a nod towards Rear Window. Following this part of the film, the plot twists begin and come one after another until the film’s conclusion.

A movie like Deception lives and dies by its twists and the ones featured here aren’t very good. Well...I say that because I made the mistake of watching the trailer on another Fox DVD and I learned far too much from it. My wife, however, didn’t remember the trailer, and when the first hint of a problem arose, she stated, “Are we not supposed to know that?” Yes, some of the big reveals in the film’s first half will only fool those who left the room to get a snack. Once Jonathan is completely sucked into the web of lies, the film’s tone changes somewhat and there is one twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. Of course, this twist is based on accounting paperwork, so maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t see it coming. Then again, no one should be all that surprised about the twists in the film. I mean, it is called Deception.

Deception is certain a hit-or-miss film. McGregor, Jackman, and Williams are all good in their roles, and the idea of the “sex list” (which, as we learn on the extra features, could possibly exist) is an intriguing one. Director Marcel Langenegger has given the film a slick look, yet the pacing is slack at times. Yet, in the end, Deception fails to do it’s job. Just as we’d knock a comedy which didn’t make us laugh, we must criticize a thriller whose twists aren’t very surprising.

Deception fibs its way onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie was shot using both film and HD equipment, and there are certainly times when a subtle grain is noticeable on the image and times when it isn’t. Other than this, the image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. This is a dark film, but the image is never too dark here. The colors look good, most notably blues and the blacks look fine. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects really stand out during crowd and street scenes and the in-film music sounds fine. There is some nice surround sound from musical cues and one nightclub scene really comes to life through the rear channels.

The Deception DVD has a deceptively short list of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Marcel Langenegger. This is a somewhat dry, yet informative talk, as Langenegger gives scene specific comments about the making of the film. His facts are often a bit too technical, but he does a good job of pointing out locations and praising his actors. "Exposing Deception: The Making of the Film" (18 minutes) contains comments from the cast and filmmakers and some on-set footage. The piece explores the scipt, the actors & characters, the look of the film, shooting in New York, and the costuming. Sex Therapist Dr. Diana Wiley discusses the reality of sex clubs in "Club Sexy" (10 minutes). The cast & filmmakers chime in on the topic as well. "Added Deception" contains three DELETED SCENES, which can be viewed with optional commentary by Langenegger. We get an alternate ending here, which is merely an indecisive version of the ending from the finished film.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has also brought Deception to Blu-ray Disc. The movie is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 1080p HD AVC transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The transition between HD and film is barely notable here, as there is basically no visible grain. The image is very sharp and clear. The amount of detail on the image is excellent, but, of course, this means that we can see every pore on the actor’s faces. The image has a nice depth at times as well. Colors look fine and the image is never too dark or too bright. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track has a real presence, as the stereo effects are nicely detailed and we hear many “small” sounds in the office scenes. The nightclub scene produces great bass and surround effects. Street scenes produce nice surround effects and the score sounds good.

The Blu-ray Disc contains all of the extras found on the DVD plus one more. "A Passionate Process: Dissecting Deception" is a series of short behind-the-scenes segments which focus on various aspects of the film. These can be viewed individually from a menu, or as a Picture-in-picture feature.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long