“Dangerous Lies” (Netflix film); Cast: Camila Mendes, Jessie T. Usher, Elliott Gould; Direction: Michael Scott; Rating: * * and 1/2 (two and a half stars)
By Vinayak Chakravorty
It’s silly suspense drama really, and at less than 100 minutes it’s the sort of pulp fiction you would indulgently sit through. “Dangerous Lies” makes no pretence of being anything but a B-movie. Only, it goes about effectively with its business of being cliched.
If the corny title doesn’t give away that fact, the opening shot will. A car veers into an alley parking lot amid a familiar bluish-purple night backdrop. You’d think this is a nineties flick, actually, as garish neon signs in pink, blue, red and yellow drift past. There’s some upbeat alt-pop playing in the background, too.
This is the story of Adam and Katie. He is studying Contemporary Sociological Theories and Corporate Empirical Analysis (try rolling that on your tongue thrice without breaking it!). She is waiting tables in the alley diner. They are hard up on cash, it is amply clear in the opening scene, and she hopes to complete graduation presently.
It’s a standard package, really. They small-talk, there’s coy chuckle, and in the very next scene there’s sex in the car – and the sex followed by violence because soon as they return to the diner he’s foiling a robbery bid.
The story really picks up a while later. We get to know of Katie’s day job — being “caretaker, companion and friend” to Leonard (Elliott Gould), a happy old loner who lives alone in a huge house. Adam, meanwhile, has taken up task as Leonard’s gardener.
The film has good pace, you realise, as Katie finds Leonard dead in the attic one morning. What’s more, there is a big stash of cash in a huge chest. You’d think Katie and Adam’s financial woes would go – who’s seen them with the corpse and the body, right? Think again, there are sufficient twists.
David Golden’s writing is predictable even in the twists it caters, many of them simply incredulous in the way they push the plot. This is the sort of film where the pretty heroine and the handsome hero do something stupid simply because the story needs a twist. It’s a film where no one smells the reek of a rotting corpse.
Yet, director Michael Scott’s execution of his material at hand prompts you to keep watching, almost in the same way you would devour a hackneyed paperback bestseller till the last page. The overall treatment reveals an impressive noir edge. Ronald Richard’s camera finds able company in James Jandrisch’s moody score.
You’ve known Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge in “Riverdale”. Her new outing as Katie is far less layered. She brings understated screen presence, though, in her pivotal role, and her chemistry with Jessie T, Usher’s Adam is effective.
“Dangerous Lies” should benefit from the fact that it has dropped amid the lockdown, when there is a ready captive audience eager to keep streaming, across zones green, orange and red.
(Vinayak Chakravorty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)