Scouring elderly dating sites, ageing con artist Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) finds his latest mark in Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren). Supposedly worth millions, he sets about ingratiating himself in Betty’s life together with the aid of partner-in-crime Vincent (Jim Carter). However, what starts out as a simple swindle has more consequences than Roy could have ever imagined…
Ian McKellen is as duplicitous as each scene requires and Helen Mirren tunefully pulls your heartstrings ...
Director Bill Condon is a safe pair of hands. Whether helming the excellent ‘Gods and Monsters‘ or the final two chapters of the ‘Twilight‘ saga, he is a reliable presence in any production. Often working with the sublime Ian McKellen, they are joined by the equally magnetic Helen Mirren and the steadfast Jim Carter. However, sadly the one final invitation to this winning hand is missing is ‘The Good Liar’s’ script.
Opening confidently in albeit in a more serious vein than ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels‘, the initial premise is similar to most gifting movies. Find somebody rich, gain their trust, offer them a way to make more money and then run off with everything – and in this, ‘The Good Liar’ initially succeeds. Ian McKellen is as duplicitous as each scene requires and Helen Mirren tunefully pulls your heartstrings as his victim-in-waiting.
However, where ‘The Good Liar’ becomes a victim of its own intentions is when it decides to change its tone. Not content with a well-acted thriller with stellar leads, it reaches out for deeper, historical significance in its third act. Tonally jumping from a character study to a wartime thriller, the sale sadly doesn’t take and the joint victims in this gambit become the credibility of ‘The Good Liar’s’ principal characters.
In the grifting genre, you always know that there’s a twist is coming. Where every caper is dramatically obliged to come unstuck, it is not the surprise of the outcome but what happens next that makes the movie memorable. Think of ‘Oceans 11‘. Sadly in switching genres half-way through, any nascent affections for ‘The Good Liar’ are as likely to become as strained as those shown on the screen.
A solid reminder of each of its cast’s abilities, if not the scripts they are afforded, Bill Condon’s latest comes up empty at the expense of charm traded in for intrigue.0