"Twisty Thriller Metes Out Justice and Revenge"
What You Need To Know:
THE GOOD LIAR is extremely well-written. It also delivers two great performances by Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen. However, the final twists defy logic. Also, there are at least 15 “f” words and some disturbing violence involving murder and rape. That said, THE GOOD LIAR has a moral worldview where justice is achieved, but the justice is tinged with a revenge. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
THE GOOD LIAR is a thriller pitting two of England’s greatest living actors, Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen, in the story of an elderly con man who tries to romance an elderly widow in the hopes of robbing her of her fortune. For the most part, THE GOOD LIAR is a riveting, nicely acted thriller with a light moral worldview about getting justice against an elderly con man and murderer, but the twist at the end seems to defy logic, and the movie contains about 15 “f” words, some disturbing violence and a brief positive portrayal of a homosexual relationship.
The movie opens with Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) and Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) engaging in a conversation on a dating website and then going to dinner. Roy seems charming, and both are widowed, with Betty having been widowed just a year ago, and Roy having lost his wife three years ago.
However, after Betty heads home with her grandson, Steven (Russell Tovey), Roy zips off to a strip club, where he meets with three other men in a back room and is revealed to be a con artist. Roy has set up an elaborate fake business deal with three other men to take advantage of two Russian businessmen, and he is shown ruthlessly manipulating the situation even further.
After his elaborate scheme succeeds, Roy must go into hiding, so he delves into his relationship with Betty. He pretends to be extremely frail in order to win her sympathy and be invited into her home in an exclusive community far away from Roy’s bustling city existence. However, this arrangement meets with disapproval by her grandson, Steven.
Roy is all charm and seems like a gentleman, but it turns out Steven is right and Roy is out to scam Betty of her millions. As he insinuates himself ever further into her life, he also finds he has to dodge not only Steven’s suspicions but the risk of getting caught for a lifetime of schemes.
Will Roy manage to empty Betty’s bank accounts, or might she have some surprises of her own?
THE GOOD LIAR offers a tour de force showdown of two of England’s greatest living actors in Mirren and McKellen, on screen together for the first time. It also is directed by Bill Condon (DREAMGIRLS and the live action BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and), who has built a career upon an eclectic mix of genres. Condon sets a mood of disquieting suspense from the beginning. At first, it seems that the screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher will provide these talents with a great setup for a classic thriller. The slowly revealed manipulations of Roy are parceled out for maximum tension, and the two acting icons deliver rich performances, with McKellen particularly strong as he often shifts from charming to ruthlessly evil on a moment’s notice.
Much of the movie is extremely well-written and keeps viewers on their toes. However, there are major twists before the final act that are a fun surprise at first, yet become so complicated they defy logic if viewers pay close attention. By the end, thought, the twists are likely satisfying enough to send most viewers home happy.
THE GOOD LIAR shows most of its violence in brief flashes, or in relatively discreet fashion. A man is seen briefly walking through a strip club past two women who are only wearing thongs, covering their genitals but barely nothing else. In addition, a man is seen getting his hand crushed with a meat tenderizing hammer before the scene cuts away while his screams from other hits continue to be heard. In another scene, a man is stabbed in or near his eye before being pushed in front of a subway car, but both of these are seen without blood. A three-man fight over a gun features two non-graphic shootings but a bloody head after. Also, one man has a blade run against his neck, leaving a scar. (SPOILER FOLLOWS) There is also a choking and wrestling fight between a man and a woman. In addition, the movie has elements of revenge mixed with justice Finally, add in about 15 or more uses of the “f” word, some other foul language and an implied rape scene between two teenagers, and THE GOOD LIAR that demands extreme caution. Also, the movie’s worldview is moral in that justice against a con man and murderer is finally achieved, but the justice is tinged with some revenge.