Saturday 10 February 2018

Slow Byrne: "Lies We Tell"

The cobbled together Poverty Row effort Lies We Tell opens with fallen icon Harvey Keitel being chauffeur-driven through the mean streets of Bradford in a car bearing the registration number 1 CEO. Just in case we hadn't already got the idea, director Mitu Misra then cuts to a close-up of Keitel chortling to himself while tearing into bank-fresh stacks of £50 notes... and three minutes later, the character - a hard-drinking, much-philandering Greek businessman - has dropped dead, leaving the actor headed to the airport, and thence the set of those home insurance ads, having presumably pocketed a not incomparable wodge of cash for himself. Left behind to curse his agent is Gabriel Byrne, as the driver whose dumb loyalty to his boss extends to keeping an eye on his glamorous younger mistress Amber (Sibylla Deen, late of Home & Away). Making the moll of Muslim heritage is a new and interesting angle for any crime picture to pursue, and Misra's screenwriters Ewen Glass and Andy McDermott have paid a measure of lip service to cultural specifics, but Amber's fraught domestic life, unfolded on oddly lit soap opera sets, proves far less dramatically credible than anything depicted in the average episode of Citizen Khan.

The main narrative thrust is melodramatic: think Someone to Watch Over Me, albeit a Someone to Watch Over Me relocated to a wonky vision of the North, where any attempts at sophistication or gloss are instantly undercut by the presence of Hollyoaks-level players in supporting roles, Mark Addy (as bumptious comic relief) pissing in Byrne's sink, and higher-than-average levels of distracting background detail. (Particularly choice: a Nando's substitute called Chickano's, and the nightclub apparently called "Score", situated on an unprepossessing industrial estate next to "West Mills Pets", where the entertainment runs to tattooed belly dancers and enforced lady-groping.) As our understandably world-weary white knight, Byrne gamely troops through it all, ensuring at least a few square centimetres of the frame retain an illusion of seriousness: he has half a good scene with Gina McKee as his soon-to-be-ex-wife before some goon pulls out a shooter, but there's not much he can do to rescue the tangent that sees him and Addy going to fly a kite, or a finale that demands he growl at an attack dog on a clifftop. You can admire the entrepreneurial guile involved - that Keitel cameo helped get the film into Showcase cinemas across the land its first weekend, not that it's likely to stick around for a second - but not a single minute ticks by without some element ringing false or just plain silly.

Lies We Tell is now playing in selected cinemas. 

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