BRITISH ROYALTY: Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan in The Good Liar.

Film review: The Good Liar (15)

It seems incredible that Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan, given their standing in the industry, had never starred in a film together.

That’s the hook provided by The Good Liar, with throws the pair together in a sometimes brutal revenge thriller that boasts an intriguing story.

In what is (of course) a very British-feeling film, the pair come together after finding each other via an online dating site and get to know each other via a series of dates.

It’s all very quaint as Roy (McKellan) and Betty (Mirren) share their stories about surviving their spouses and find a strong bond – but the rug is quickly pulled when we learn that Roy is something of a career conman looking for his next victim.

It’s then that you realise that The Good Liar isn’t just a highbrow film about two golden oldies looking for love.

Roy’s other world is incredibly sinister and some of the scenes are incredibly graphic, representing a much-needed change of pace.

While Betty – a millionaire ex-Oxford professor, no less – is lapping up Roy’s charm offensive, her grandson Stephen (Russell Tovey) almost represents the audience as he refuses to be drawn in by his tall tales.

He appears to be all that is standing in the way of Roy and his cronies, led by Jim Carter’s Vincent, from getting their hands on her cash.

There is more to the plot than Roy’s attempted scam, however.

The middle part of the film goes off on a surprising tangent when the pair of would-be lovebirds decide to take a trip to Berlin.

Director Bill Condon plants a seed that may appear to be dealt with at the time, but it pays off nicely in the end as The Good Liar serves up a few twists and turns.

Sadly, the biggest of the twists is quite easily telegraphed if you’re paying attention.

That’s not to say there aren’t some decent surprises here. I was pleasantly surprised by how the second act moved the story on maintained my interest in the story throughout.

Naturally, Mirren and McKellan play strong roles and do have very strong chemistry.

It’s impossible not to warm to Betty. She’s kind and wonderfully naive, which certainly opens her up to Roy’s line of attack.

We’ve seen McKellan play questionable characters well in the past – and Roy is certainly of that ilk.

While it may look and feel like a film for middlebrow audiences in a era loaded with mindless action, there is at least more to The Good Liar than initially meets the eye.

I can’t say that it’s for everyone and I highly doubt that people will be in a rush to see Mirren, McKellan and co on the big screen.

But, if you give it a chance, The Good Liar certainly has a good yarn to spin and is a decent change to the norm.

And, if you can get past the slightly tame opening act, there’s a deliciously sinister plot to watch unfold.

Voice Verdict: 7/10 (reviewed at Boston Savoy)
+ Takes some surprising turns
+ Mirren and McKellan on-songRoy’s shady world
– Slow start
– Telegraphed twist

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