The Good Liar is like a bad book with an incredible cover. The faces of Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren make this film seem as though nothing could go wrong. However, not even these excellent film veterans could save The Good Liar from its abysmal plot. The film consists of Ian McKellen’s character Roy Courtnay, a career con artist, trying to fleece Mirren’s Betty McLeish out of her millions in an attempt to end on a career high.
The main complaints fall into the lap of Bill Condon, the film’s director. He managed to take two marvellous performers and place them in a movie whose plot is as weak as melting wax. The Good Liar struggles to create an identity for itself, flipping from genre to genre in a desperate attempt to find a sense of place. The film cannot decide what it wants to be, as it injects an awkwardly shoehorned plot involving the psychological effects of World War II. One moment, the film feels as though it is going to open up into a brilliant battle of wits, but then swerves into oncoming traffic with its disastrous commentary on war. It does not know what it is, and it is obvious that Condon does not even know what the film was meant to be. It simply takes a multitude of themes and cannot take advantage of any of them. Condon’s delivery of this plot was amateurish, opting for shock scenes as the main drive of emotion in the film. Yes, these emotional scenes provoke a response, but it is not deserved. Condon should not be falling into these tropey traps of thriller, unless he wants to remain in the depths of dismal directors for the foreseeable future.
The pacing of the film is another issue. The beginning is reasonably well paced, leaving little threads for audiences to tug on in wonderment; this is the film is at its best. However, as the film transitions into its next act it slows to crawl, only to skyrocket to its ending with a large dumping of information and explanation. Once again, Condon shows his hand- he does not possess the skills of McKellen’s conman, and cannot trick his audience into believing that his creation is anything but poor. Condon should have done better with the talent at his disposal; choosing instead to show that years of directing does not equate to masterful skill. It comes as a surprise, as Condon is not new to the scene. He is most honoured for his writing contributions to The Greatest Showman. In hindsight, Condon should have stuck to writing, as his directing is too stale to create a movie worth watching.
Shifting to a more positive aspect of the film, the wonderful duo of Mirren and McKellen certainly draw in their audience with stellar acting which is only hampered by weak writing. They are veterans of their craft but it is hard to believe that they agreed to star in this film, as it is such a waste of their talent and expertise. The charisma between the two is excellent, with their tone and style complementing each other brilliantly. Sadly, The Good Liar will go down as an irritating blotch on the records of Mirren and McKellen. The stars of the show simply cannot hold the plot together, as the film commits too many egregious errors to be worth a watch. This is by far one of the worst films released in the past few months, and with others such as Doctor Sleep, Joker and The Irishman releasing around it, there is no reason to waste time or money on seeing the The Good Liar.
Brendan O’Brien – Film Writer