Reviewed by: Chris

"As a thriller, a piece of soft porn, or a character study, the film is room temperature."

Have you ever longed for a bit more excitement in your life? Many of us have. Especially introverted and slightly nerdy audit manager Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor).

He is a high flyer, checking the books of top Wall Street companies. There's only one problem. He has neither a life, nor the diversion of sexual escapades. Accountants are wary of him for the few weeks that he checks out their figures. To everyone else, he's a temporary fixture.

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Enter smoothly tailored Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman), a stylemeister and charm school graduate. A spliff, a game of tennis and an accidental swapping of mobile phones puts McQuarry in line for sex, deception and more perilous living than Little Red Riding Hood on heat checking out the bear pit.

In the opening scene, McQuarry is alone in a majestic Manhattan skyscraper, with only the cleaners for company. The camera traverses the skyline. All is framed with artistic perfection, so that when the plot moves into Basic Instinct territory, you are not surprised to see picture postcard lovers, standing in the rain and having sex in those geometrically interesting positions, as the lighting just happens to show off lovely skin tones amongst delicately arranged shadows.

Director of Photography Dante Spinotti (The Insider, L.A. Confidential, Heat) uses a high tech Panavision Genesis digital video camera for the night scenes, capturing colours and detail in a way that ordinary cameras can’t, due to its stronger sensitivity. I spent much time admiring the photography. It was more interesting than the story. Shifting dodgy funds electronically is hardly visceral viewing. So we have a mysterious sex club that McQuarry stumbles into. He meets high profile women whose lives are too busy for relationships. Cue meaningless sex, no names, no work talk. The initiator, male or female, pays the hotel. The only important words: "Are you free tonight?"

McQuarry is emotionally attracted in one encounter – against the rules. Her name begins with S. She's blonde, leggy and played by Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, I'm Not There). Soon the games begin and you won't be surprised to learn they include blackmail and large amounts of moola.

To give Deception its due, the intrigue develops in ways I hadn't expected. I just wish I could have cared enough about the characters to ignore the lack of depth and substance, not to mention the plot holes. As a thriller, a piece of soft porn, or a character study, the film is room temperature. Luscious visuals are poor compensation for a contrived and unengrossing storyline. It passes the time well enough and makes a competent debut feature for director Marcel Langenegger, but Spinotti requires worthier projects and McGregor and Williams need to show that they are serious about acting.

Some of the best lines employ the f-word, well suited to McGregor's well modulated and slightly posh accent, like a buff version of the very proper Hugh Grant. Sadly, he doesn't get to say them himself. With S, he wants to "consummate these deep human needs", which she interprets as "fucking and sucking". Truth can take on a different meaning during flirtation.

Deception makes for a pleasantly titillating hour and a half, but, like a drunken one-night-stand, it would be silly to take it too seriously.

Reviewed on: 01 May 2008
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Softcore thriller about a Wall Street auditor brought into a world of sleaze.
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Basic Instinct