Deception is the kind of state-of-the-art, edge-of-your-seat sexual thriller that grabs you and doesn't let go. It's actually the kind of movie Hitchcock might have made.
The opening scenes of this sleek thriller introduce us to Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor)--a wuss of a corporate accountant, style-challenged and in glasses-- working late at night on a project in the plush high-rise New York City offices of a major law firm. Suddenly his life is turned upside down upon meeting snazzy and suave attorney Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman), a spellbinding lawyer. He proceeds to get Jonathan high on pot in the office, play tennis with him and introduce him to a wild exclusive sex club called "The List" designed for New York's elite business executive--both men and women. Jonathan goes from zero to 60, sexually speaking, becoming addicted to the anonymous one-night stands the service specializes in--until he falls hard for an attractive woman known only as "S" (Michelle Williams). When she vanishes one night and a mysterious intruder knocks him out, Jonathan is thrust into an enveloping mystery of high stakes money laundering, identity theft and murder.
Although Hugh Jackman gets star billing and is listed as one of the film's producers, it's Ewan McGregor who has the most screen time and really drives the story. Both are terrific. McGregor's mild-mannered and initially shy accountant is a classic Hitchcockian character, the everyman stuck in a rabbit hole, overtaken by events spiraling out of his control. Nothing in McGregor's past filmography prepares us for this interpretation, but he nails it and has the audience right by his side for the magical mystery tour of New York's dark underbelly he finds himself taking. After being established early on, Jackman virtually drops from view, not showing up again for any significant screen time until the film's second half when it becomes clear there is much more--or actually less--to him than meets the eye. Without revealing any spoilers, suffice to say Jackman can play a heavy with the best of them. Williams has the blonde, cool and mysterious looks--taking some tips from the Kim Novak/Tippi Hedren school of acting--and makes the most of her few but pivotal scenes. Rest of the cast is fine including Lisa Gay Hamilton as a cop trying to help McGregor solve the puzzle and a nice cameo from veteran Charlotte Rampling as an older female member of the sex club who relieves her 18-hour work day with an all too brief encounter with McGregor.
Award winning commercials director Marcel Langenegger makes an impressive feature debut knowing exactly the kind of mood and pace today's thrillers need to thrive. Langenegger, aided by brilliant cinematographer Dante Spinotti (L.A. Confidential, The Insider) finds the lonely soul of NYC . Their vision creates a dark anonymous playground for strangers passing in the night. Although Deception has the slick look the genre seem to require, there's also a certain gritty visual quality not normally seen, especially in latter scenes set in Madrid. When these kinds of thrillers (like last week's genre washout 88 Minutes) fall apart, it's usually because the director becomes obsessed with superfluous details while ignoring the bigger picture. Langenegger's confident work here is closer in tone and accomplishment to what Woody Allen so perfectly managed in Match Point a few years back. He does a fine job juggling the demands and enhancing the credibility of Mark Bomback's nifty screenplay, guiding a group of fine actors through the maze while slowly ratcheting up the suspense to the highest levels.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.