Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) runs his ship aground with a smarty-pants crime romance set amid the world of corporate espionage. Uber-spies Ray (Clive Owen) and Claire (Julia Roberts) get themselves in deep when they decide to leverage their mutual distrust for one another as a foundation for a romantic relationship. The wrongheaded decision makes Ray, an ex-MI6 double-spy, and Claire, a former CIA agent, double-double spies when it comes to stealing the formula for a mystery cream (or is it a lotion?) from a mega-corporation run by Tom Wilkinson’s blow-hard megalomaniac Howard Tully. Paul Giamatti plays Howard's rival corporate raider Dick Garsik whose primary goal in life is to hear the sound of Howard's cojones hitting the floor.
With flashbacks, flash-forwards and few flashes of inspiration, the movie flips around like a dying fish on a balsa-wood boat dock. Duplicity is so heavily back-loaded that it demands the audience take a leap of faith that all narrative debts will be paid off in a third-act finale.
No such luck. When the overlong movie finally gets to its climax, it’s too little too late. Grand Canyon-sized plot holes get a kitchen-sink caulk job that drops our four protagonists/antagonists off roughly where they began. The blurry division between the good and bad guys is a problematic issue that's never properly handled. Ostensibly Owen's smooth talker Ray and Paul Giamatti's duplicitous Dick Garsik are characters we root for if only because their characters are the most pro-active of the bunch.
In the end, we're left questioning how the movie evaporated in front of our eyes. It's because there wasn't much there to begin with. Sure Owen, Roberts, Giamatti and Wilkinson are all great to look at on the big screen, but that hardly makes Duplicity anything more than a barely watchable crime thriller where the biggest thrill is getting up from your seat when it's finally over. Grade: C-
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