There is an old quote from Mark Twain that says, “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on stage and let her scream.” Potent advice for anyone crafting a thriller, advice I wish Dangerous Lies had heard from the beginning.
Clever and intriguing, thrillers are hard to design, careful not to confuse your audience, yet complex enough so as not to allow the audience to figure out the end before you are ready to reveal. While Dangerous Lies does present an interesting puzzle, maintaining attention, the film panders too often to its audience.
Dangerous Lies opens outside of a Chicago cafe, the luminescent and neon lighting screaming of an episode of Riverdale. As the leading protagonist is played by Camila Mendes (Veronica of Riverdale), it is hard not to feel the connection and the tired cinematography and lighting. As we enter the Smiles Diner, the feeling of familiarity continues, as Katie (Mendes) makes her way through the tables and chairs, a setting that while larger, looks similar to Pop’s Diner from the fan-loved series.
From here, the motivation of both our leads is quickly presented, while money troubles hang over their heads, Katie and Adam (Jessie T. Usher) just need to hold on until Adam finishes grad school. Though their plans to just barely stay afloat are quickly snuffed out as a robbery in the diner leads to an end of their ambitions.
Four months later, they are no longer staying afloat, rather sinking quickly as Adam has dropped out of school and Katie is supporting them as a caretaker for Leonard (Elliott Gould, Friends), a wealthy 88-year-old man with a heart of gold and a keen sense for kindness. Though as she gets closer to her patient, opportunities present themselves to improve their financial situation. While Katie is hesitant, Adam itches to dive into each opportunity for wealth that comes their way.
Yet with the unexpected death of Leonard, Katie’s life enters a whirlwind of finances, confusion, paranoia, and mistrust as an unknown will names her the benefactor to Leonard’s estate, and Adam appears to be hiding ill intentions.
Crafting the Lie
Reading the synopsis for Dangerous Lies, there was definitely intrigue and mystery alluded to, much of which the film delivers in a slow burn. The problem is that as it slowly burns, drawing out the lies and truths hiding in the corners, too much is literally given to the audience. There is no room for speculation – and if you piece each element handed to you, you will figure out the ending before the filmmakers are ready to reveal. Much of this is attributed to the script rather than the set design or direction.
Dangerous Lies does provide its audience with some gorgeous shots though, nothing to build further tension or heighten the intrigue, but just really gorgeous shots that stand out when the film has ended. Specifically, the scenes in the attic provide beautifully, deep contrasted lighting that gives a missing depth to the film. While the lighting and cinematography at the beginning call back to Riverdale, and even Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it sheds the familiarity and develops its own palette.
The cast provides a lot of “oh, I know you” moments as well, which gives the film its own little game for viewers to play. Camila Mendes we all know from Riverdale, whose performance is of equal quality, but she is not the only familiar face to grace the screen. Elliott Gould, who many will remember from Friends, delivers an expected performance, giving the feeling that if the script had been better, so too would he. Twilight’s Cam Gigandet creeps in and out of the plotline, bringing the sly, playful and villainous nature he encompassed within the YA adaptation back to screen. Jamie Chung also delivers a strong performance, though resonating her previous role of Valerie Vale on Gotham.
Dangerous Lies: Conclusion
I can’t say that Dangerous Lies was a terrible film. If you set your expectations appropriately, it can actually be an entertaining movie. As much as I was critical about a variety of elements, I did find myself drawn into the story, drawn into the intrigue. But while there are moments you will feel the tension and the frustration, much of it due to Adam, Dangerous Lies is a suitable quarantine film, for when you have run out things to watch.
Watch Dangerous Lies
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