Monday, March 15, 2010

All-star cast can't give this movie heart

Lies and Alibis (2006)
Starring: Steve Coogan, Rebecca Romijn, Sam Elliot, Henry Rollins, James Marsden, James Brolin, Selma Blair, and John Leguizamo
Directors: Matt Checkowski and Kurt Mattila
Rating: 5 of 10 Stars

Retired con-man Ray Elliot (Coogan) is running a successful business that establishes alibis and covers for husbands and wives who cheat on their spouses. It is a good life... until one of his clients (Marsden) murders his lover. Ray must find a way to deal with the police, the blackmailers, and even his own past when it comes back to haunt in him the form of eccentric assassin The Mormon (Elliot). To top off the total collapse of Ray's quiet retirement, he may be falling in love with his new executive assistant (Romijn).

"Lies and Alibis" is a light-weight comedy that follows the pattern of all good caper and "Big Con" movies. It's got a collection of fine actors, who each portray quirky characters (with Sam Elliot as the Latter-Day Saint polygamist assassin and his sidekick Henry Rollins; Brolin and Marsden as obnoxious wealthy father and son who make Elliot's The Mormon character look almost like a decent guy, because at least The Mormon seems to have some semblance of honor; and Leguizamo as an innocent bystander who gets caught up in the events, being the most fun to watch. Top-billed stars Coogan and Romijn are okay, and they play well off each other in the scenes they share, but it's the other cast members who make this movie entertaining.

I don't say this very often, but I think this film would have been better served if it had been ten or fifteen minutes longer. The perfect storm of Bad News that forms around Ray and his carefully constructed multi-layered con that ultimately extracts him from it, take so much time to set up that we only skim the surfaces of just about every character in the film. We gain some insight into Ray, but even though he's narrating events constantly, he still keeps most of his secrets from us. (This makes the twist ending to the film and Ray's final exit from his current life, a little bit of a cheat, even if it is set up in plain view as the final 15-20 minutes of the movie unfolds.) Everyone else, however, remain total mysteries, particularly Romijn's character, who is so ill-defined I can't even remember her name.

What we have here is a nicely executed bit of plot machinery, but the film has no heart.

"Lies and Alibis" is like those animatronic displays they used to have at Disneyland (and they may still... it's been 30 years since I've been there)... everything in it comes with perfect timing, but there's no humanity or personality here. Despite good performances by all the actors involved, despite a neatly executed caper and con-game plot, I still felt unsatisfied when the end of the movie came, because there was nothing to get involved with emotionally.

1 comment:

  1. I must say, I could watch Rebecca Romijn read the phone book, so this one doesn't sound all that bad.