I think The Good Liar is going to be one of those films that you with either like it a lot or dislike it a little. Some are comparing the Bill Condon film to the mysteries and thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock while others are not so impressed. One thing that just about everybody agrees on is that the film makes for a good excuse to see two cinematic greats play off of each other in grand style.
While technically a thriller, the movie has dashes of humor, a touch or two of romance and mystery that seems obvious at first, but will keep you guessing all the way until the end.
This cat-and-mouse story is pretty much a one-sided one for most of the picture with Ian McKellen playing dignified con man, Roy Courtnay working with Vincent (Jim Carter), his partner-in-crime. In the middle of one con game, Roy meets the recently widowed Betty McLeish (the beautiful Helen Mirren) through an online dating site. But this isn’t by coincidence. He knows that she’s worth millions.
After a few awkward moments with a dinner date, Roy explains that he abhores dishonesty and comes clean with the fact that he might have fibbed a little with his online profile. As it turns out, Betty has done the same. She’s a drinker. He’s a smoker. No harm done. Yet.
The two hit it off and their first date is a successful one. So is the second one. Soon, Roy manipulates his way into the widow’s home after proving how difficult it is for him to climb up the stairs to his apartment due to an issue with his bad hip. But much to Roy’s disappointment, the two won’t be sharing a bed during this supossedly short stay.
While Betty seems to be quite taken with this English gentleman, her grandson Steven (Russell Tovey) is less than thrilled to make his aquaintance. He is protective of his grandmother and leary of strange men who no doubt carry with them a bunch of secrets. As it turns out, Roy isn’t the only one.
As this romance continues on, Roy learns that Betty has some health issues dealing with her heart. Against his own rules, Roy finds himself genuinely falling for Betty, which complicates his plans. Other complications arise when other people who have been scammed by Roy come at him for revenge. And then there is that pesky grandson. What does he know?
While The Good Liar isn’t completely believable, it is very enjoyable. However, it is not in any hurry to get to the end. It isn’t as thrilling as the trailers make it out to be, but there are a few genuinely shocking scenes that pop up from time to time giving the film the R rating that it deserves. There is some brief nudity (not of the stars!) that is completely unnecessary and one nasty scene with a kitchen mallet. But it is the stars’ performances as well as the bread crumb clues given out along the way that make this a fun outing. The two add a bit of elegance to this film that even Hitchcock would enjoy.
(Main photo: Warner Bros.)
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.