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Don't be deceived into seeing Deception

When I look back on my notes for a movie that blew the proverbial bigone, there's better than even odds they'll contain the phrase "OK sofar."

This is secret movie critic code for "Oops, better start payingattention." But really, most bad movies manage to pull off a veneerof competence up until the third act. It's only the truly abominableones where the suck is obvious before they start trying to wrap thingsup.

Like most things in life, it's exactly like eating a microwaveburrito, getting near the end, and then biting into a chunk of bone.Until that tooth-grating bite, it wasn't exactly the tastiest thing inthe world, but there were no big complaints, either. After that bite,though, it's all you can do to choke down the rest without yarkingeverywhere. And suddenly all the burrito you ate up to that pointseems infinitely grosser than it did a second ago.

Deception is that treacherous burrito: an unremarkable lumpuntil the fateful bite that turns the rest to deadly deadly poison.

Ewan McGregor is a lonely auditor. He's good enough to get employedby all the big firms come tax time, but the fact heads will roll if hefinds anything wrong makes him shunned by the regular employees ofevery company he visits.

Working late one night, he strikes up a friendship with charismaticlawyer Hugh Jackman, who the friendless McGregor latches onto in ahurry. The day Jackman's set to go on a long business trip, theyaccidentally swap cell phones.

McGregor fields a call on Jackman's phone and before he knows it he'senmeshed in an anonymous sex club. Sex club's a lot like FightClub -- no names and everyone gets to blow off steam (though no memberof the Sex Club's hot chick parade has a rack to rivalMeatloaf's) -- but all the joy of strings-free sex disappears onceMcGregor meets and falls for Michelle Williams.

At the risk of spoilers, deception is also involved. You'll furthernote that in all that plot description, which takes us up to at leasthalfway through the movie, there's no actual conflict. McGregor doesa good job living out his character's alienation, but when a thrillergoes 40-50 minutes with no more drama or suspense than some guy has ahard time talking to women, it had better be a whole lot betterobserved than Deception ever is.

Still, it's more uninteresting than bad. The bad doesn't show upuntil the third act, when director Marcel Langenegger telegraphs thebig suspense piece so loudly they were guessing the ending all the wayup on the Mars colony.

I'll readily admit twist-guessing is one of the lamest sports everdevised. 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 peopleis a shocker to others; too often, people bitch about guessing amovie's surprises like that invalidates everything else it does well.For all that, I can say with no hyperbole whatsoever thatDeception's twist is the most obvious curveball in the historyof storytelling.

It was so obvious I wrote in my notes what was actually happeningwithout 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 ithere, then someone wrote me up to tell me it wasn't supposed to be atwist at all, dumbass? Then I would look like the fool! Whatan unexpected turn of events that would be!

But no, it was supposed to be a shocker. The true crime isn't justthat it was so forehead-dentingly guessable, it's how manipulativeLangenegger is in trying to pull it off. Surely some of the blamemust also be splattered on writer Mark Bomback (writer of last year'sLive Free or Die Hard). In his defense, things probably didn'tlook so ludicrously obvious on the page, but in his offense, he didwrite Deception's ending to be a cheesy "have your cake and eatit too" copout. And it's not like the movie was any great shakesbefore its big fat mess of a finale.

I'm going to go frown at myself in a mirror for 20 minutes justfor 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 themore time you spend thinking about it. The best defense is skippingit altogether.

Grade: D

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