Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen are excellent in “The Good Liar,” a con artist film with lots of fun twists.
“Companionship, nothing serious,” is the personal ad that the wealthy and mature Betty McLeish (Mirren) places. She first meets Roy Courtnay (McKellen) in London in 2009.
“Have you done this a lot? Met people on the computer service?” she asks.
“Yes,” he replies.
“Don’t you find it’s always the same?”
“You mean the anticipation followed by the let down? Yes. But we never say it — if you had only described yourself a little more accurately, we could have saved a little time which at our age we can ill afford to waste.”
“But I am ever the optimist,” she says.
They part excited about seeing each other again. Roy fakes taking the train home and then gets into a cab where he has a meeting in a bar with a group of wealthy, yet shady men, including Vincent (Jim Carter).
“This proposition. Just how dodgy is it?” Roy is asked.
“Difficult to say.”
“I thought so.”
The former Oxford University professor Betty gets along famously with Roy. Driving him home, Roy seemingly cannot get up the stairs to the top floor of his apartment because of a bad knee. Betty insists that he stay in her spare bedroom.
“It’s too soon to be getting so close to him,” Betty’s grandson, Stephen (Russell Tovey) says. “The closer you get, the more you lose perspective.”
Roy’s plot to swindle a group of Russian investors goes sideways. He tries to repair it. When the police come to arrest everyone, and the parties scramble to get away, it turns out that Roy was conning one of his partners and gets away with his money.
“I was never one for history,” Roy tells Stephen, who is studying for his doctorate. “What’s done is done and there is no way to fix it.”
When one of Roy’s associates tries to blackmail him into a larger cut of the job, Roy has another associate brutally beat him. He brings Vincent to Betty. Vincent is introduced as Roy’s investment adviser and wants to leave Betty money in his will.
It turns out Betty is worth millions. Vincent promises to not only double Betty’s money within five years, but that the investments will be used to help needy people.
Vincent produces large “royalty” checks from Roy’s investments. Roy and Betty plan a vacation together, when Betty has a minor stroke, which it turns out is one of a series. If she does not rest, the doctor warns, she will not live out the year.
There are plot twists upon plot twists with the two gifted performers showing how tense and dangerous it is in a world where you cannot trust anyone.