Film Review: “The Good Liar” Just Barely Entertains by the Chemistry of Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen

Film poster: “The Good Liar”

The Good Liar (Bill Condon, 2019) 2 out of 4 stars.

Nothing more satisfying than seeing a criminal get their just desserts. A simple call to the police is fine, I guess, but the more elaborate the reveal of the bad guy’s heinous acts the better. Based on the novel by Nicholas Searle, The Good Liar tells the story of Roy and Betty, played by Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren, two senior British citizens looking for love in their twilight years. To the most unsuspecting people, these two look like the cutest couple you’d see on the street; Betty certainly thinks so. Sadly, we learn quickly that Roy has plans to rob Betty for everything she’s worth.

The Good Liar has the tropes of an entertaining heist film starring iconic actors but no visible desire to execute them in an invested manner. Whether or not you’ve seen the trailers for the film, I’ll continue to skirt around the major spoilers that occur in the third act. These trailers didn’t make the foolish mistake in revealing the twist, but they did inadvertently give viewers a clear idea of where The Good Liar would end.

There’s no denying the flawless chemistry Mirren and McKellen share with one another. They make it look so easy. McKellen’s Roy is a clever thief who is too charming for his own good and Mirren’s Betty is an adorably naïve college professor with millions to burn. Once you realize that the first two uneventful acts of The Good Liar are in service of the third then it’s easy to sit back and predict exactly where Mirren and McKellen’s relationship will end up.

Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren in THE GOOD LIAR ©Warner Bros.

The Good Liar is a dull thriller relying on the merits of its two lead actors to keep the audience in their seats. Mirren and McKellen sleepwalk through these roles. Even then, they end up being the most entertaining part of a film that should have been saved for On Demand.

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About Patrick Howard

Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.
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