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"DECEIVER"
(1998) (Tim Roth, Michael Rooker) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Mild Heavy Moderate Mild
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild Minor Mild None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Mild Mild Mild Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Suspense/Thriller: Two cops interrogate an intellectual murder suspect who begins playing mind games with them.
PLOT:
Walter Wayland (TIM ROTH) is the rich playboy son of a wealthy textile magnate. Clever and uncannily brilliant, Wayland is the prime suspect in the murder of Elizabeth (RENEE ZELLWEGER), a prostitute who was found cut in half. Wayland claims he's innocent, but the police believe he's responsible and want to prove his guilt. Thus, he's given the standard set of tests by polygraph technicians Phillip Braxton (CHRIS PENN), a divorced cop with huge gambling debts to a bookie, Mook (ELLEN BURSTYN), and Edward Kennesaw (MICHAEL ROOKER), a cop with twenty years on the force and a shaky marriage to his wife (ROSANNA ARQUETTE).

As their polygraph tests begin, the cops learn that Wayland may have temporal lob epilepsy, a condition that may have caused him to murder Elizabeth and not remember it, or conversely cause him to imagine that he committed the crime when he didn't. As the two cops try to manipulate Wayland into confessing, he in turn begins playing mind games with them by exposing their formerly hidden and quite dark secrets.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Older teens might, but unless they're fans of someone in the cast, it's doubtful many others will.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For violence, language and some sexual content.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
Considering the murderous behavior, adultery, gambling problems and lying, it's doubtful that any parents would see the main characters as good role models.
CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
Movies that strive to be psychologically based criminal thrillers need several key elements to be successful. First, there must obviously be some sort of mystery that needs to be solved. A suspect must also be present who may or may not be guilty of the crime -- which is usually murder. Then there must be an intellectual battle between the suspect and the police with both parties playing mind games they hope will foil the other's efforts.

"Deceiver," the latest film in this genre, has all of those elements, yet it fails to be completely intriguing or entertaining to watch as it unfolds. That's surprising since most everything seems to be in place including the brilliant potential criminal -- expertly played by Tim Roth. Given an added mysterious medical condition that may or may not induce the criminal behavior or just delusions of it happening, and everything seems perfectly set up for a first-class mental chess match.

Yet the problem lies with the police who don't prove to be much of a match for Roth's character. Sure they're tough and run the standard procedures to confuse him, but right from the beginning they seem outclassed. Additionally they're never seem personally involved in the story (except during the closing minutes) and thus they have no emotional stakes in play. Instead the story focuses on their problems that are unrelated to the plot (one's infidelity and the other's gambling problems).

While those elements are eventually neatly tied together at the end, they're certainly not very exciting and the lack of the expected twists and turns keeps the film from fully engaging the audience. For a prime example that did work, think of "Basic Instinct." Beyond all of the hype (of Sharon Stone crossing and uncrossing her legs), that film had a smart script featuring several suspects (with great alibis) and a detective romantically involved with both of them. We're not suggesting that there should have been some sort of romance here, but the film does feel as if something's missing.

Most of that, other than Roth's performance, comes from the fact that there's just not much of a spark present. Directors (and brothers) Jonas and Josh Pate (collaborators on 1996's "The Grave") have fashioned what initially appears to an intriguing story. As they unfold the plot and lead us to believe that some wild events are being exposed, it unfortunately all comes up rather flat. Additionally, the film gets a little hokey at the end and then tries to cover that up with what the Pate's hoped would be some thrilling surprises. Instead, those elements come off as nothing more than standard fare for audiences who are now used to (and fully expect) complicated plot twists.

Roth, whose performances we've always enjoyed -- especially those bordering on slight (and sometimes great) lunacy -- delivers another good one here, and perfectly mixes brilliance with what may or may not be mental lapses. Zellwegger, so adorable in "Jerry Maguire," is okay playing a hooker in a small role that's all seen in flashback. Character actor Rooker (the sheriff in 1997's "Rosewood") delivers his now standard and always intense, ready-to-explode character, while Penn (also a character actor in numerous films -- you'd recognize his face) also delivers a decent turn as a troubled cop. Despite their performances, however, they're hampered by the fact that their characters just aren't developed enough to make them interesting and/or a match for Roth's character.

Missing that key element, the film never manages to fully take off. Even so, and while the movie initially appears to be an all dialogue film set just in the interrogation room (a good set up for mental matches, but a device that often teeters on confined boredom for the audience), the film makers have fortunately included flashbacks that tease us with what may have really happened or perhaps was just a series of delusions. While not terribly exciting, such moments do hold our attention as we wait for the explanatory finale.

If you like psychological thrillers, you probably won't mind this one, but we only wish the plot were actually as clever as it tries to be. With more development, some additional twists and turns, and better developed character "competition," this could have been a first-class entry in this genre. As it stands, it's good, but not great. Thus, we give "Deceiver" a 5.5 out of 10.

OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
Here's a quick summary of this film's content. Profanity is extreme with at least 18 "f" words, and some sexual talk, as well as some brief encounters, also occur. Some violent moments are seen and/or talked about, including a prostitute's murder, but these are brief and only moderately graphic. Nearly everyone lies throughout the film, so those and other bad attitudes are quite prevalent. There is also some drinking and moments of drunkenness, along with a moderately tense aura surrounding the whole film. Should you or someone in your family desire to see this feature, we suggest that you examine the content before doing so to make sure it's appropriate.

ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • In a flashback we see Wayland's father holding a drink.
  • Wayland takes drugs to control his reported epilepsy, and later takes other drugs from Mook to keep him from remembering things (for the polygraph tests).
  • Wayland comments that he's an alcoholic and was drunk on absinthe.
  • Kennesaw's wife appears to be drunk when she returns home after having an affair.
  • Kennesaw's wife brings him a bottle of liquor to the dinner table, but he doesn't drink any.
  • Wayland and Elizabeth (adults) are very drunk at a party his parents are hosting where we see other people drinking cocktails and wine.
  • Wayland and another man drink martinis in a bar.
  • We see Wayland drinking some sort of liquor.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • We see a bloody glove on a police desk.
  • Kennesaw tells a story about a guy who was so drunk that he peeled the skin from his legs like an apple (though not seen, it's quite graphically imagined).
  • We see Wayland's daydream where he suddenly stabs his mother in the chest with a dinner knife. He then spreads butter with the bloody knife.
  • Kennesaw has a few bloody scrapes and a bloody lip after Wayland beats him up.
  • A man's hands are bloody after cutting Elizabeth in half.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Elizabeth's killer obviously has both.
  • Braxton is a compulsive gambler who took insider information on a bet. His bookie found out, and threatens to harm his children if he doesn't pay up.
  • We learn that Kennesaw started visiting prostitutes after discovering that his wife was having an affair.
  • Wayland tells a story (that may or may not be true) about his high school girlfriend passing out from drinking too much. He then states that he had sex with her while she was passed out.
  • Kennesaw's wife is having an affair and, sensing this, he orders her around and then makes her clean up some orange juice he purposefully spilled on the floor just to be demeaning to her.
  • A priest in a confessional takes money from Braxton and works as a middleman for Mook.
  • Wayland drunkenly introduces Elizabeth to his parents at one of their big social parties and does so to embarrass them.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Much of the movie has an overall tense atmosphere about it.
  • Wayland has one of his seizures where he gets up on a chair and begins to undress. Although he was told not to touch Wayland during one of these moments, Kennesaw does so and Wayland attacks him. He punches and then kicks him many times.
  • We see a videotape of Kennesaw roughing up Elizabeth in a bedroom.
  • Kennesaw removes all but one bullet from his gun, aims it at Wayland, and pulls the trigger. He does this several times, and then to himself.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns: Worn by the cops and later used by Kennesaw to threaten Wayland.
  • Dinner knife: We see Wayland's daydream where he suddenly stabs his mother in the chest with a dinner knife.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (toward a woman), "Shut up," "Bastard," "Moron," "Pissed," and "Whore."
  • Kennesaw removes all but one bullet from his gun and does a version of Russian roulette, but on Wayland first.
  • Wayland gives Braxton "the finger" (who doesn't see him do it).
  • Kennesaw tells a story about a guy who was so drunk that he peeled the skin from his legs like an apple (though not seen, it's quite graphically imagined).
  • Wayland tells a story (that may or may not be true) about his high school girlfriend passing out from drinking too much. He then states that he had sex with her while she was passed out.
  • A psychiatrist tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his ear.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • A rock crashes through Braxton's window.
  • A window shade suddenly and loudly retracts.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • Much of the movie has an ominous tone playing through it.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 18 "f" words (5 used sexually), 10 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" word), 6 hells, 4 asses, 4 S.O.B.'s, 3 damns, 1 crap, and 9 uses of "G-damn," 4 uses of "Jesus," 2 uses each of "My God," "Jesus Christ," and "For Christ's sakes" and 1 use each of "Swear to God," "Christ," "Oh Jesus," and "God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Wayland tells a story (that may or may not be true) about his high school girlfriend passing out from drinking too much. He then states that he had sex with her while she was passed out.
  • We see a flashback where a woman is on top of Wayland and asking him what's wrong (ie. Sexually) and then says, "You can't even f*ck, can you?" We then see that he's having a seizure, but don't see any nudity or sexual movement.
  • A psychiatrist briefly mentions Vincent Van Gogh and his gay lover.
  • Kennesaw's wife snuggles up to him and bed and says, "C'mon, Will." She then climbs on top of him and says, "I want to be alive. I wanted to be f*cked."
  • Elizabeth is a prostitute and we see Wayland talking to her on a phone and looking at her through a "pay to look" window. She's wearing just a bra and her skirt is hiked up somewhat, but we don't see any nudity.
  • We see brief images of someone having sex with Elizabeth. We don't see any nudity, but do see some movement.
  • SMOKING
  • Wayland smokes a few times.
  • We also see Elizabeth, Mook and some background characters smoke as well.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • In a flashback we see Wayland's father yelling at him for lying about being on a sports team.
  • We see Wayland as an adult at his parents' house. His father is yelling at him and tells him to get out of the house and to stop eating the food.
  • Kennesaw and his wife don't get along, due to her having an affair and him visiting prostitutes.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Lying.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Polygraph tests.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We don't see it, but Elizabeth was murdered and a man evidently cut her in half after that for fear that he'd be the likely suspect. We do see a man cutting her in half with a kitchen knife, but a bathtub blocks our view of the actual cutting.
  • Wayland tells a story (that may or may not be true) about his high school girlfriend passing out from drinking too much. He then states that he had sex with her while she was passed out (ie. Rape).
  • Kennesaw throws his glass of orange juice against the fridge.
  • We see Wayland's daydream where he suddenly stabs his mother in the chest with a dinner knife.
  • Someone throws an object through Braxton's window with a threatening note on it.
  • Wayland has one of his seizures where he gets up on a chair and begins to undress. Although he was told not to touch Wayland during one of these moments, Kennesaw does so and Wayland attacks him. He punches and then kicks him many times until he's subdued by other cops.
  • We see a videotape of Kennesaw roughing up Elizabeth in the bedroom.
  • We see flashes of a man smothering a woman with a pillow.
  • Kennesaw removes all but one bullet from his gun, aims it at Wayland, and pulls the trigger. He does this several times and then aims it at Braxton and himself.
  • A man falls and hits his head, and apparently dies from the blow.



  • Reviewed November 5, 1997

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