Wednesday, February 4, 1998

Deceiver

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Seemingly under the impression that being enigmatic is the hallmark of cool, the writing and directing team of brothers Josh and Jonas Pate have made sure that nothing in their second film, Deceiver, is as it appears to be. Not the stolid police detectives, Braxton (Chris Penn) and Kennesaw (Michael Rooker), who are administering a lie detector test while trying out a variation of the good cop-bad cop routine. Or the man strapped to the machine, James Walter Wayland (Tim Roth), the wayward heir of a prominent Charleston, S.C. businessman.

The question at hand is whether Wayland murdered and dismembered a prostitute (Renee Zellweger), and the movie unfolds in a series of interrogations and atmospheric flashbacks, but remains baffling straight through to the end.

Perhaps the biggest question is how a cast this interesting wandered into such a muddled film (including Ellen Burstyn, looking like a drag queen as the glitter eye makeup-wearing queen of the underworld, and Rosanna Arquette as Rooker's prim yet sexually charged wife).

The most troubling aspect is Wayland, a snobbish, absinthe-drinking epileptic. With a questionable sexual orientation and high IQ, he seems to be channeling both Leopold and Loeb. The Pates' script equates his physical condition with criminal behavior in a particularly cheap way &emdash; they also dabble in facile psychological diagnoses &emdash; perhaps in a misguided effort to flesh out painfully one-dimensional characters.

What the Pates have going for them is a bold visual style, excellently shot by cinematographer Bill Butler (The Conversation, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). The images are arresting and immediate, but meaningless. They seem to be aiming for some variation of Lynchian surrealism a la Lost Highway's questioning of identity, but all Deceiver offers is surface flash and dizzying camerawork.

Josh and Jonas Pate - 28-year-old identical twins whose first film was the straight-to-video The Grave - have created a cinematic version of a trompe l'oeil painting: there's the illusion of depth, but it's really just a clever facade done by talented tricksters. In Deceiver, the real deception takes place between the filmmakers and their audience.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 12, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation