When I look back on my notes for a movie that blew the proverbial big one, there's better than even odds they'll contain the phrase "OK so far."
This is secret movie critic code for "Oops, better start paying attention." But really, most bad movies manage to pull off a veneer of competence up until the third act. It's only the truly abominable ones where the suck is obvious before they start trying to wrap things up.
Like most things in life, it's exactly like eating a microwave burrito, getting near the end, and then biting into a chunk of bone. Until that tooth-grating bite, it wasn't exactly the tastiest thing in the world, but there were no big complaints, either. After that bite, though, it's all you can do to choke down the rest without yarking everywhere. And suddenly all the burrito you ate up to that point seems infinitely grosser than it did a second ago.
Deception is that treacherous burrito: an unremarkable lump until the fateful bite that turns the rest to deadly deadly poison.
Ewan McGregor is a lonely auditor. He's good enough to get employed by all the big firms come tax time, but the fact heads will roll if he finds anything wrong makes him shunned by the regular employees of every company he visits.
Working late one night, he strikes up a friendship with charismatic lawyer Hugh Jackman, who the friendless McGregor latches onto in a hurry. The day Jackman's set to go on a long business trip, they accidentally swap cell phones.
McGregor fields a call on Jackman's phone and before he knows it he's enmeshed in an anonymous sex club. Sex club's a lot like Fight Club -- no names and everyone gets to blow off steam (though no member of the Sex Club's hot chick parade has a rack to rival Meatloaf's) -- but all the joy of strings-free sex disappears once McGregor meets and falls for Michelle Williams.
At the risk of spoilers, deception is also involved. You'll further note that in all that plot description, which takes us up to at least halfway through the movie, there's no actual conflict. McGregor does a good job living out his character's alienation, but when a thriller goes 40-50 minutes with no more drama or suspense than some guy has a hard time talking to women, it had better be a whole lot better observed than Deception ever is.
Still, it's more uninteresting than bad. The bad doesn't show up until the third act, when director Marcel Langenegger telegraphs the big suspense piece so loudly they were guessing the ending all the way up on the Mars colony.
I'll readily admit twist-guessing is one of the lamest sports ever devised. If I weren't still in love with the USA women's team 2006, I'd say it's even lamer than curling. What's obvious to some people is a shocker to others; too often, people bitch about guessing a movie's surprises like that invalidates everything else it does well. For all that, I can say with no hyperbole whatsoever that Deception's twist is the most obvious curveball in the history of storytelling.
It was so obvious I wrote in my notes what was actually happening without any clue about what we were supposed to believe was happening.
So when the movie started treating it like a big secret, I laughed, then got deathly scared. It was supposed to be a surprise, right? But it so clearly wasn't! What if I arrogantly made fun of it here, then someone wrote me up to tell me it wasn't supposed to be a twist at all, dumbass? Then I would look like the fool! What an unexpected turn of events that would be!
But no, it was supposed to be a shocker. The true crime isn't just that it was so forehead-dentingly guessable, it's how manipulative Langenegger is in trying to pull it off. Surely some of the blame must also be splattered on writer Mark Bomback (writer of last year's Live Free or Die Hard). In his defense, things probably didn't look so ludicrously obvious on the page, but in his offense, he did write Deception's ending to be a cheesy "have your cake and eat it too" copout. And it's not like the movie was any great shakes before its big fat mess of a finale.
I'm going to go frown at myself in a mirror for 20 minutes just for thinking this, but tits aplenty is no substitution for tension.
Even after the lies and blackmail make their long-awaited appearance, Deception is generic, predictable and makes less sense the more time you spend thinking about it. The best defense is skipping it altogether.