A thoroughly addled hard-boiled murder mystery, Deceptions seems to exist primarily to exploit the real-life romantic relationship between its stars, L.A. Law‘s Harry Hamlin and Knots Landing‘s Nicollette Sheridan.

Hamlin and Sheridan portray a tough detective and his chief suspect in a murder case; they fall in love, smooch a lot, and lick each other’s belly buttons (remember, this is cable).

At first, it’s fun to watch this couple; Hamlin’s perennial sneer forms an airlock with Sheridan’s constant pout. But couldn’t the filmmakers have built a real movie around these shenanigans? Deceptions wants to be a sordid little thriller in the tradition of James M. Cain’s books such as Double Indemnity, with murdered husbands, million-dollar life-insurance policies, and wanton lust on display.

Richard Taylor’s script, however, never achieves Cain’s vivid grubbiness; Deceptions‘ plot is so absurdly convoluted, its dialogue so cliched, that it’s impossible to become involved in the lives of its characters.

”Let me tell you something, pally,” costar Robert Davi says to Hamlin at one point. ”People always want what they haven’t got.” You mean like a good story and acting that involves something more than hissing awfully well? You said it, pally.

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