"Deception" will deceive very few viewers as an all-too-obvious setup leads to a foregone conclusion featuring forgettable characters. When the best thing about a movie is its cinematography and art direction, you know you're in trouble.

Why Hugh Jackman was so excited by Mark Bomback's script to star and produce the film is as big a mystery as why such talents-on-a-roll as Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams joined the cast.

The background to this movie about a woman's disappearance and a multimillion-dollar heist is an anonymous sex club for upper-crust Manhattanites, so Fox might lure some adults, especially males, hoping for hot action. But even the sex scenes are too perfunctory to turn up the heat. Boxoffice looks equally as tame.

McGregor plays a dull corporate auditor with seemingly no personal life, family or friends. In other words, a sitting duck for Jackman's predatory attorney, whose playboy lifestyle seduces the guileless accountant. Jackman then introduces him to "The List," mobile phone numbers of similar high-powered workaholics who hook up for hotel sex where bodily fluid but no names are exchanged.

These one-night adventures in "intimacy without intricacy," as one date puts it, have a certain softcore giddiness for viewers, especially when Natasha Henstridge and Charlotte Rampling turn up. McGregor falls for a one-nighter, a fragile beauty (Williams) he only knows as S. Then he is knocked out, she is abducted and an unlikely thriller takes hold.

Every plot turn reeks of implausibility, but least convincing of all are the characters, all extreme cases with little to attract audience sympathy. Could anyone be as naive as McGregor's mousy, bespectacled shut-in? Is any villain's ulterior motives so transparent as Jackman's? And has any director, even a first-timer like commercial filmmaker Marcel Langenegger, ever telegraphed so many punches?

Rather than paying attention to the lame melodrama, one instead thrills to the sleekness of Dante Spinotti's lighting and the inherent drama in Patrizia von Brandenstein's white-on-black and black-on-white color scheme.

An R/E production in association with Seed Prods.
Director: Marcel Langenegger
Screenwriter: Mark Bomback
Producers: Arnold Rifkin, John Palermo, Hugh Jackman, Robbie Brenner, David Bushell, Christopher Eberts
Executive producer: Marjorie Shik
Director of photography: Dante Spinotti
Production designer: Patrizia von Brandenstein
Music: Ramin Djawadi
Costume designer: Sue Gandy
Editors: Christian Wagner, Douglas Crise
Wyatt: Hugh Jackman
Jonathan: Ewan McGregor
S: Michelle Williams
Tina: Maggie Q
Wall Street Belle: Charlotte Rampling
Wall Street analyst: Natasha Henstridge
Detective Burke: Lisa Gay Hamilton
Running time -- 108 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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