It is always a pleasure to see acting legends come together. And let’s face it; Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren are two of the most commanding acting presences of a brilliant generation of actors. It is a tad disappointing that it took this long for them to get paired up on-screen. That said the results are quite electric. Bill Condon knows these two thespians are the backbone of his film and uses them and their talent with expert results. This may sound like I could end the review for The Good Liar here, but there’s more to be said, so let’s roll up our sleeves take a look at this cat and mouse mystery.
“So tell me. Have you done this a lot?”
Roy (McKellen) is an old hustler who even in his twilight years cannot give up the life. He finds a new target in Betty (Mirren), a widow looking for companionship through an online dating service. As their relationship blossoms past cons begin to catch up with Roy. Can he keep everything from falling apart? Is there more to this relationship than we’re to believe? Crime thrillers in this day and age are not the easiest nut to crack. After years of consuming this genre fans can often spot the curveball a mile away. So if that’s the case, why invest the time?
The simple answer is McKellen and Mirren. The film owes huge debt of gratitude to them for playing everything straight and giving a hundred percent dedication to the story. Roy’s gentle fake grandpa moments are a great contrast to his beautifully unsavory moments. We all know McKellen has the chops, but it’s nice to see him go into some darker roles. In recent years Mirren has kind of been taking on some ‘lighter’ roles. The Fast and Furious films and an updated version of The Nutcracker don’t really require much effort. Here she gets a little meat on the bone of this character. We see Betty from the get go and know there’s more to her than meets the eye. This all makes for some amazing moments. As the dynamics between the two changes it’s fantastic to watch how McKellen and Mirren react.
“I’ve grown very fond of you.”
As mentioned, the crime thriller genre has some very well worn territory. Over the decades these stories have gone through the life, death, and revitalization cycle multiple times. Fans pretty much now have a keen sense of how something is going to play out. On the plus side, how we get to that point in The Good Liar isn’t all that clear. To me that is what made things interesting. When all is revealed I knew what the outcome would be, but the reveal of how we got there made things fascinating.
And to that point I have to give the film credit. When you’re half an hour in and can guess the outcome, but between the cast and steps along the way you’re still invested that’s an impressive feat. Throw in Bill Condon’s precise direction and The Good Liar is more than the sum of its parts. It may not be perfect, but the time you invest does thankfully get paid off.
Overall Score 3.5/5