The Good Liar: Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen in a ropey thriller

Review: Star cast can’t save a film that is a preposterous, uneven mess

The Good Liar
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Director: Bill Condon
Cert: 15A
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins

Roy (Ian McKellen) is charming, gentlemanly and a practised career conman who preys on the women he meets online. He can hardly believe his luck when he chances on the widowed Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren).

Trusting, warm, and in possession of some sizeable assets, Betty may be the last big score Roy needs to retire. But might the kindly Betty be getting under his skin?

Even if you can’t spell the word “thriller”, you’ll likely realise that there’s more to The Good Liar than meets the eye. The film, which was adapted from Nicholas Searle’s hit 2016 novel of the same name, doesn’t simply add a predictable twist to the tale: it delves into an absurd backstory, one that unwisely reconfigures a playful swindle as a historical tragedy.

An opening scam, in which Roy teams up with assorted associates for an elaborate sting, is nicely executed and hints at the mischievous caper this might have been. But such pleasing genre games are completely derailed by the final, discombobulating act, a denouement that punctures an already ropey thriller.


One half expects Jason Statham and Luke Evans, Mirren’s movie children in the Fast & Furious franchise, to come crashing in. In the circumstances, that could only have improved the overall film.

Many talented folks have come together for this preposterous, uneven mess. Director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Beauty and the Beast) reunites with McKellen for the fourth time. McKellen and Mirren seem to be having a good time, despite the poverty of the material. Director of photography Tobias A. Schliessler (Friday Night Lights, A Wrinkle in Time) and composer Carter Burwell provide solid tech specs.

Everyone involved has made and will make many better films than this one.

Opens on November 8th

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic