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film / tv / politics / web / celeb

April 26, 2008 |

By Brian Prisco | Film | April 26, 2008 |

Wal-Mart scraped the bottom of the Seventeen Magazine trashcan to gather teen celebrities to hawk their latest line of fine clothing. Bright colorful ads feature stars decked out in summery ensembles hoping to lure hormonal herds of teens into the stores to snatch up the material in the belief that it’ll make them look stylish and sleek. But for all the marketing ploys and brand wizardry, the bottom line is you’re still buying shitty Wal-Mart quality merchandise stitched together by sweatshop urchins manacled to workbenches toiling away for their 12 cents a day and a fresh bowl of khab khalash. Gussy it up as sparkly as you can, but it’s still a piece of crap.

Such is the problem with the odious film Deception. For all its alluring Hugh Jackman-Ewan McGregor glamour, it is no more than a repackaged John Grisham-quality cable movie. It doesn’t even attempt to put a fresh twist or clever angle on old material. It basically snags a generic, blandly sexual corporate espionage thriller and bedazzles it with a couple of fading A-list rhinestones in the desperate hope you’ll be too overwhelmed by the shiny to realize what a terribly ugly product you’ve got in front of you.

It’s no surprise this shit heap was manufactured by director Marcel Langenegger, whose resume consists mostly of car commercials for Nissan. And that’s how this movie plays out: like one big, poorly produced commercial for a clunky car. It slithered out of the ear hole of Mark Bomback, author of such gems as The Night Caller and Godsend. He has made his career out of getting really good actors to say really terrible lines in really terrible movies. In fact, his biggest claim to fame was repurposing a tech magazine article on Internet terrorism into the I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Actually-Watchable Live Free or Die Hard.

Bomback didn’t so much write a script as he photocopied pages from every legal thriller ever made and then handed it in for a paycheck. You know how this movie works. McGregor plays Jonathan McQuarry, an accountant who does corporate audits and suddenly strikes up a friendship with slick lawyer Wyatt Bose (Jackman). They play tennis, they go out drinking, they’re best friends forever. On one of their dates together, their phones mysteriously get switched. John gets a mysterious phone call asking him if he’s free tonight. Mysteriously. John shows up, and gets introduced into the world of The List, a vibrantly creative name that must have taken hours to crank out. It’s a way for high-powered executives to go to expensive hotels and have lots of anonymous boring sex montages. But then John falls for the seductive “S” (Michelle Williams), whom he bumped into one time in a subway, so she must be the one for him. He doesn’t have sex with her; instead they exchange awkward pithy dialogue over hamburgers and fries. Afterwards, John doesn’t want to have wild sexy sex parties anymore, he only has thighs for his special lady.

But lo and behold! Just as the two of them are falling in love in the rain outside a Chinese restaurant — shudder — S disappears, leaving behind a pool of red karo syrup splattered on the bedspread and John knocked unconscious by an unknown assailant. I know this might come as a shock, but it turns out it was WYATT! I know, right?! Wyatt forces John to do an accounting scheme involving swiping $20 million from a slush fund hidden by one of his audit clients and then placing it in an account in Madrid. But wait, then John’s apartment explodes, and I then I drool myself into a coma losing two valuable hours of my life.

It’s easy to make a bad movie. But to round up a cast of this magnitude and then suck all the charisma and spirit out of them like Prince Humperdinck cranking his machine to 150 … well, I don’t want to use the word “auteur,” so I won’t. The film is inexplicably shot in dark blue with inexplicable, jarring angles and ridiculous closeups. A tense phone call ends, and we zoom in on Jackman’s eye like he’s the goddamn Dramatic Hamster. But it’s in teasing out the performances of the cast where Langenegger really lets his fuck-up flag fly.

Jackman is a charming bastard, but he wanders listlessly from suave to psychotic like Lindsay Lohan looking for her AA Chip. He’s only to be trumped by Ewan McGregor, who’s sporting the worst New York accent since Scarlett Johansson in Scoop. For some reason, the filmmakers decided if they give Ewan glasses and comb his hair, he’ll come off as a neurotic nebbish. Both of these actors ooze cover model machismo, specializing in characters that vibrate neon electric sensuality, but Langenegger has managed to strip them completely of any appeal whatsoever. They’ve gone from Grade-A chuck to boiled Irish stew.

Langenegger gathers an arsenal of females that would make Hugh Hefner swoon and essentially relegates them one of two roles: sex doll or wooden plot device. Had these merely been FHM fare, it would have been understandable. Natasha Henstridge shows up as the first fuckbuddy of the film, except they would have been better off hiring Bianca from Lars and the Real Girl. Henstridge had more personality seducing Bender as the Planet Express Ship. After this movie, I’ve decided Maggie Q (Rush Hour 2) is only allowed to be in movies where she spinkicks Hudson Hawk or the Mac Guy. OK, I understand. You’re throwing a lonely bone to the guys who want to see boobs. But to waste Charlotte Rampling on a throwaway Mrs. Robinsonesque expository scene? What, was Jane Seymour getting Botox? And poor Michelle Williams looks like they pulled her out of the receiving line at Heath Ledger’s funeral and let her wander forlornly from scene to scene looking lost.

The movie spends most of its time plodding along at a dreadful pace. Rather than getting involved in any semblance of suspense or drama, you spend most of the movie waiting endlessly for the other shoe to drop. McGregor’s apartment receives the ol’ Fight Club Cleaning Service about 45 minutes before the movie ends. Do they actually assume the audience is stupid enough to believe that he went up with the explosion? You almost wish that he actually died, because at least it would be fucking surprising. It was like watching Dave Foley’s M. Piedlourde play hackysack. I haven’t seen plot punches telegraphed so poorly since my three round bout against Soda Popinski. I haven’t seen things coming from this far away since my days as Dirk Diggler’s fluffer. I actually had the time to write all these jokes and test them on audience members during the movie while we were waiting for the obvious twists to be untwisted.

It all culminates in one of the most audaciously terrible endings ever captured on celluloid. Not only is it totally illogical and against character, but it’s also poorly performed and generally unsatisfying. It’s a quadruple threat! The only way I could have forgiven this movie is if it ended with Jackman schnicking out his adamantium claws while McGregor draws a lightsaber and they duel to the death. Or, if they both broke out in sudden glorious song and dance in the middle of a fountain. Or, if everyone was killed by chubby rain. All of which would have been more logical than how this really ended.

Brian Prisco is a warrior-poet from the valley of North Hollywood, by way of Philadelphia. He wastes most of his life in desk jobs, biding his time until he finally becomes an actor, a writer, or cannon fodder in the inevitable zombie invasion. He can be found shaking his fist and angrily shouting at clouds on his blog, The Gospel According to Prisco.

All in the Suit That You Wear

Deception / Brian Prisco

Film | April 26, 2008 |

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