HELEN Mirren, 75, and Ian McKellen, 80, are British acting royalty. Helen has won all the major acting awards like the Tony, the Emmy, the Golden Globe and the Oscar. Ian has won the Tony, Golden Globe, the Emmy and has been nominated twice as best supporting actor in the Oscars for “God and Monsters” and as Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings”.
Due to their impressive credentials, we have such high expectations for their first film together, “The Good Liar”, which is directed by Bill Condon, best known for films like “Dreamgirls”, “Gods and Monsters” and the live action version of “Beauty and the Beast”. We have reason to hope that such a powerhouse combination of talents will gives us first rate entertainment on the big screen. We thought it’s something like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” about con men caught in their own game. But it turned out to be based on a book that is meant to be a thriller.
In the opening credits, we see the two senior citizens creating dating profiles and lying about each other regarding their names, Estelle and Brian, and also their smoking and drinking habits. When they finally meet each other over dinner, they reveal their real names to each other: Betty and Roy.
You know right away that they’re not really that trustworthy, but it’s quickly revealed that Roy is the bigger liar. From their dinner, he goes to a strip club to meet with his cohorts about a shady business deal they’re about to pull on some unsuspecting victims. So right away, we know who’s the villain between the two.
Roy is a shameless con artist who can be violent and plans to steal the newly widowed Betty’s lifetime savings. To reveal anything more would surely be a spoiler since the movie contains a very big twist. And this is where it actually becomes weaker and quite hard to believe.
We are given a melodramatic and convoluted back story, shown in black and white with long expository monologues, dating back to before World War II. Incidentally, the movie is set 10 years earlier because if they’d set it now, the actors would have to be nonagenarians.
All in all, it boils down to an intricate story of revenge, similarly to the stupid vengeance premise of a major character in the local film “Nuuk”, which we also didn’t buy. As one character says in “The Good Liar”: “Why go through all that trouble?” Exactly.
Forgiveness might not be their cup of tea, but planning and executing a very complicated and overplotted vengeful scheme, that has to be absurdly foolproof to be hugely successful in its machinations, just becomes so incredible. Both Helen and Ian are good in their respective roles but, this is no “On Golden Pond”, and sadly, no amount of charm or talent from the lead actors can save the disappointing movie from being such a boring enterprise. They both certainly deserve a better and more respectable project worthy of their stature.