Deception and Ruby Cairo (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)




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to bank to bank, getting big stacks of money from each one until she reached Berlin, where she found that someone had withdrawn the money just before she arrived.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.

Bessie had $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 described above. 

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.

The 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


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 sharp.

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.



  • no features
  • no widescreen
  • the full screen transfer is a pan 'n scan
  • ABSOLUTELY not recommended


  • There is no nudity in the current Region 1 DVD (90 minutes).

  • In the German DVD (106 minutes), Andie MacDowell shows her breasts and bum in a sex scene. Viggo Mortensen's bum is seen from the side in the same scene.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • USA Gross: $600,000
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, as it stands on the chopped-up Region 1 DVD, it's a D that should have been much better. The cinematographer did fine (especially in Egypt), and the cast had some competent stars, but the product was ruined by a lackluster script, a pan 'n scan transfer, a featureless DVD, sixteen minutes of cuts, and a missing nude scene. Having catalogued all those weaknesses, I would add that I'd watch the film again to see a good widescreen transfer of the full length, just to see the photography of Egypt and Andie.

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