Deception is an international thriller shot on location in
Athens, Cairo, Vera Cruz, and Berlin. Laszlo Kovacs (Ghostbusters;
New York, New York) did the cinematography. The stars are Viggo Mortensen and Liam Neeson.
The Aussie character actor Jack Thompson plays a support role.
Bessie Faro (Andie MacDowell) learned that her
handsome, reckless, devil-may-care husband (Viggo) had died in a fiery crash. She was
dismayed to find out that she was not only a widow, but a poor
widow with a stack of bills to pay. She thought that her husband
had some money stashed away, but didn't know where it could be. She
checked his known hiding places, but found nothing but a tiny package of baseball cards hidden
in her husband's ramshackle workshop. By piecing together some
cryptic notations on the cards, she was able to determine which
banks held her husband's secret cache of money. The cards also gave
clues to the account
numbers, and the false names associated with each account.
So far, not bad at all.
Unfortunately, she then proceeded tediously across
the world from bank to bank to bank, getting
big stacks of money from each one until she reached Berlin, where
she found that someone had withdrawn the money just before she
arrived. Given the fact that nobody else had access to the baseball
cards, she knew that the person withdrawing the money must have been
her husband, and that he was therefore not quite dead yet.
Still not so bad, but from then on, the flimsy house of cards quickly tumbled.
$840,000 already collected, and would never have to worry about
money again, but she just had to meet her husband face-to-face one
more time so that she could ask the time-honored noir question, "whyja
do it, Johnny?" She really said those words. Unfortunately,
MacDowell's genteel Southern drawl took some of the edge out of that
question, which should be asked by a sharpie with a New York accent,
and should be preceded by "Sa-a-a-ay, ... "
She kept following the trail,
putting herself in great physical peril for no reason just so she
could see Johnny face-to-face. As soon as she met him, however, she
ran back out the door and told him they were through. Huh? If she
wanted to break up with him, it wouldn't have been difficult. She
could simply have pretended that she never found out Johnny was
alive, or she could have simply sent him a nasty telegram from the
beach in Rio. Either way, she could and should have gone home after
visiting the last bank, thus avoiding several life-endangering
situations in Egypt. The husband also did the exact opposite of what
might be expected. Although he seems to have gone to great pains to
get away from her, he wouldn't let her go after seeing her. Hell, if
he really wanted to have her around, he could have done so at any
time before their meeting, but he never made any attempt.
So she chased him around the world
to break up with him, and he was running away to get back with her. If the characters' motivations don't make sense, neither do some
of the plot details. In fact, when I went back to watch some scenes
again, I could clarify nothing. To the contrary, I found more
problems. When I watched the movie the first time, I figured
that certain enigmatic details would be explained when the secrets
were all revealed. When I watched it again, knowing all the secrets,
I could no longer take comfort in the thought that all would
eventually be explained. There were some things that just didn't make sense
at all, and other things
which may have made sense but were inadequately explained or expanded. To
choose one outstanding example, I thought that Johnny left the
baseball cards behind specifically so that his wife could find the
money and avoid the poorhouse after his "death." That seemed logical because she
was the only one who could have deciphered the sequential logic of the cryptology. When
it turned out that Viggo did not intend for her to empty those bank
accounts, the great unexplained mystery became "So just why did he
leave those baseball cards behind, and whom did he leave them for?"
I still don't know the answer to that question. I could cite several
other similarly confusing plot points.
What about ol' Schindler? I don't have any idea why Liam Neeson
was in the film at all. He was a professor who was feeding the poor in the
third world, and Bessie ran into him more than once as she followed the
trail leading to her husband and his money. Neeson's relevance was
purely peripheral. Bessie and the professor had a brief and
sweet encounter, a kiss or two which promised to turn into a romance, but didn't.
What about Jack Thompson? I think he had three
lines of meaningless dialogue like, "drive carefully, mate."
There is one thing in the film which may amuse you if you are a baseball fan.
When the Viggo Mortensen character was a boy, he allegedly caught Bill
Mazeroski's famous homer ball in the 1960 World Series. Of course, Viggo
the actor is too young to play a man who was that kid. Viggo had not yet reached his
second birthday on that historic day (Oct 13, 1960). We should just
ignore that persnickety point, however, and exult in the fact that Viggo lives in the Middle East under
the pseudonym "Mr. Bill Mazeroski!"
Many of the film's problems stem
from the decision to create a Region 1 DVD from a chopped-up version
of a longer film. In order to create this version, the running time
has been cut from 106 minutes to 90, and the name of the film has
been changed from Ruby Cairo to Deception. I'm sure you understand
that cutting 16 minutes from any thriller is likely to result in a
significant loss of exposition and explication, and in this
particular case the cuts have caused many of the problems which I
Not to mention some lost nudity!
At one time there was actually
one certifiably good non-Mazeroski reason to watch this
film. Beautiful Andie MacDowell did a nude scene, the only such
exposure of her entire career. Well, guess what? The nude scene has
disappeared from the version of the film seen on the current Region
1 DVD. Unfortunately, that scene is necessary to explain why the wife decided
to leave the husband after going to all the trouble of finding him.
With that scene absent, as I noted above, she basically says, "Hi,"
followed by "we're through," and turns their encounter
into a complete WTF experience for the viewer.
deletion of that scene would be reason enough to avoid this DVD, but
the disc is disappointing in all other respects as well. It contains
a 4:3 pan-n-scan transfer with the sides of heads cut out of scenes.
Given the aspect ratio, the confusion caused by the missing
exposition, and the lack of nudity, I suppose this is a version that
was prepared for broadcast TV somewhere or another.
I'm not really sure of that point,
but I am sure you should avoid this DVD.
Ruby Cairo, which can be found in
Germany on an all-region DVD, is the full 106-minute version of
Deception. By presenting the film as originally intended, the German
DVD solves many of the
problems enumerated in the paragraphs above:
1. It not only includes the complete, uncut film,
but presents it in a theatrical
widescreen aspect ratio.
2. The character motivations are clear with
the lengthy sex scene restored. In the short version, it makes no
sense that Andie would chase her husband
around the world, and then leave when he answered the door. The
reason that was confusing is because she didn't actually do that.
The two of them did get together, had sex, and talked a lot. In the
lengthy process of multiple flashbacks, mood shifts and extensive
dialogue, Andie flashed back to what their relationship used to be
like, and thus realized the man she was having sex with was just not the
same man she married.
3. There is now some point to Jack Thompson's
presence in the film. There is still not MUCH point, mind you, but
at least he has a substantial part instead of a cameo.
Unfortunately, the DVD has two other problems
which prevent me from recommending it
1. The transfer is far inferior in quality to the
one on the Region 1 DVD. The video quality is grainy and just not
2. There is only one sound track,
and that is in German. The original English soundtrack is not
available. There are no sub-titles available. If you want to hear
it, your only choice consists of dubbed German voices.
It's kind of a shame that there is
no high quality, uncut, widescreen version of this film in English.
Such an offering would still not be a great DVD, but it would be a
pretty good one, and would get me to watch the film again.