MovieMantz Review: ‘Duplicity'

"More Like Stupidity"

Julia Roberts, Clive Owen
Directed by Tony Gilroy

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Given the dreadful state of the U.S. economy — which is turning out to be the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930's — hard-hit moviegoers would be forgiven for not feeling any sympathy towards greedy corporations or, more importantly, the greedy CEO's who run them.

So chalk it up to bad timing for the release of "Duplicity," in which Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play conniving business operatives (and secret lovers) on opposite sides of an all-out corporate war. But timing is only part of the problem with this would-be romantic caper, which is too convoluted to be romantic, too confusing to be an effective caper and too long to be entertaining.

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"Duplicity" tells the story of two former government officials — CIA officer Claire Stenwick (Roberts) and MI6 agent Ray Koval (Owen) — who now work as spies for cutthroat business rivals. They soon come up with a clever plan to double-cross their employers, who are locked in a bitter race to bring a revolutionary new product to market. But as their globetrotting romance becomes more intense, so does their inability to trust anyone — including each other.

After raising the bar on the spy thriller with his terrific screenplays for the "Bourne" franchise, Tony Gilroy made a spectacular directorial debut with 2007's "Michael Clayton," which was nominated for seven Academy Awards. But where that film was a gripping, intense and very smart corporate thriller, "Duplicity" is too smart for its own good. It's ambitious to the point of being pretentious, and the characters are not fully realized (nor are their motives).

It would have helped if Julia Roberts and Clive Owen had any chemistry together, but surprisingly, they don't. They didn't before when they co-starred in 2004's "Closer," but that worked to their advantage, since they played an estranged couple. In this case, their romance seems fabricated, and their attempts to one-up each other wind up leaving moviegoers as the ones feeling duped.

Leave it to Oscar-nominees Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti to steal their scenes as the warring corporate executives who will stop at nothing for the secret formula. Granted, their characters wouldn't be sympathetic even in a more prosperous time, but the next time Tony Gilroy tries his hand at a corporate thriller, here's hoping that his timing — and his movie — are a little better.

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Verdict: SKIP IT!

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