Deceiving people can be art, but only if the artists are smart enough. In writers, director, and actor Richard Ryan’s Art of Deception, which feels reminiscent of early 2000s direct-to-video movies, the deceivers are many. However, none of them are smart enough to deceive anyone within the film. Their actions feel short-handed, overtly inconsequential, and not developed enough to make this plot interesting. The result is a dated, dull, and annoying action thriller that never truly feels alive. 

To put things into perspective, Ryan first introduces us to Slater Badd (Zac Titus), a psychotic assassin who has always been the central villain in a conspiracy thriller akin to this. The introduction features him slyly getting into the house of his target and killing him while delivering some of the most obnoxious one-liners you can imagine. Later, we are introduced to the husband and wife pair of Joseph Markham (Richard Ryan himself) and Valentina Markham (Jackie Nova). They are off on holiday, where we learn that Joseph plans to spend more time with Valentina once his current project is done. 

Soon, we understand that Joseph is a scientist who has been working for a couple of years under his boss, Craig Stern (Craig Bruenell), on the cure of a deadly virus (?). It’s hard to believe that someone as intelligent as him would dedicate their efforts to developing either a virus or an antidote for a virus that hasn’t yet affected anyone, especially without being aware that Craig’s involvement stems from the CIA’s intention to weaponize the vaccine by embedding a computer chip, ultimately aiming for global domination.

A still from Art of Deception (2019).
A still from Art of Deception (2019).

Roland J. Smith (Leon van Waas), the CIA operative who has been undertaking the project, wants Joseph dead, thus embarking on a cat-and-mouse narrative turn. The CIA gets their hands on Valentina, and of course, Slater Badd shows up again. The rest of the film follows up in the same way as you’d anticipate, only in a much blander and uneventful way. 

Now, I don’t wish to dismiss the film, especially when I am completely aware of the limitations it has due to budget constraints. But, the film falls flat on almost all grounds. The acting is not only lackluster but odd and uneven, and it occasionally feels like a character has forgotten their own traits and is now playing someone else.

The writing is substandard; the conspiracy, espionage, and heist mix that it is aiming for never comes together, leading to a super annoying plot progression that relies heavily on convenience. Additionally, the plot and subplots are never fleshed out in a way that would make the viewer care or even be mildly interested in the stakes. 

Most of all, The Art of Deception just feels like a really uncomfortable film that was at least 60 drafts away from perfection. In its present state, it has not even managed to seep into the ‘so-bad-that-its-good’ category, making it just unwatchable. 

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Art of Deception (2019) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Art of Deception (2019) Movie Cast: Richard Ruan, Nicholas Talons, Jackie Nova, Craig Bruenell, Zac Titus
Art of Deception (2019) Movie Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller | Runtime: 1h 30 Mins
Where to watch Art of Deception

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