The most glaring thing about “The Good Liar” is that it’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.
“The Good Liar” stars Ian McKellen as Roy Courtnay, an elderly longtime con artist who happens to meet a wealthy widow named Betty (Helen Mirren). Seeing an opportunity to make cash on another job, Roy initiates a new operation to start a relationship with Betty and be with her until he can get her to share her bank accounts and he can make the robbery happen.
Roy has to really commit to the role, though, as the job in convincing Betty isn’t entirely easy. Plus, Betty’s grandson, Stephen (Russell Tovey), doesn’t trust Roy from the very start. The result is a con job that’s more difficult than initially expected.
For close to two hours “Good Liar” plods along with a predictable con story. There are very few twists and turns here, because the film is leading up to the major reveal about how the con job is really going to provide a major payoff. Although an audience can scope out who’s in control of the situation pretty quick.
Until the film eventually gets there, the movie is just sequences of Roy putting on false charms to woo Betty as Stephen looks on disapprovingly. It repetitive, boring, and Stephen’s character comes across as exaggerated.
The aforementioned big payoff, what all of this was leading up to, is a total letdown too. It adds way to much unnecessary drama that felt excessive and resulted in too much of a tonal shift.
Any goodwill the movie might have had just by showcasing the cat and mouse game between characters played by two great performers is sunk by this big leap that the film just isn’t built to pull off. It also doesn’t help that the end twist opens up plot holes and overall is just ridiculous.
Had this just been a lighter crime story with even some humor here and there, “Good Liar” would have been passable, but with its finale, the movie bites off more than it could chew.
Mirren and McKellen are true legends of the industry and they both come into any project with several accolades. Their acting ability is clearly visible and in all fairness make the movie at least watchable.
However, the material they have here is so weak. There are many lines and sequences feeling unconvincing, disjointed and forgettable. Interestingly enough, the movie takes place in 2009 and the lead characters go to see “Inglorious Basterds,” a film with much better writing.
Director Bill Condon is an experienced filmmaker and it shows because the movie is at least competently made. It also helps to have a pair of the industry’s best acting talents. Yet the script is weak and the film goes from being a chore to sit through to a disaster with the major reveal. 1.5 out of 5.