Directed by #MichaelScott
Written by #DavidGolden
“These things, you never know how it can change someone”
Directed by Michael Scott, Dangerous Lies tells the story of Katie (Camila Mendes) and Adam (Jessie T. Usher), who are a young married couple trying to make their way in the world after a scary encounter in a diner. The film is clumsily titled and seemingly un-daring, but after the death of Katie’s employer and friend Leonard (Elliott Gould), the story becomes a little more unexpected and at times, pleasantly surprising.
The real situation of a couple struggling financially and feeling desperate as a result is an aspect of the film that actually seems real. Good sympathy is built up for protagonist Katie by Mendes with her emotive performance as a conflicted woman. The audience feels for her situation entirely, alongside Usher, who explores a man who has lost his way after a terrifying experience and becomes hungry for money and a job, rather than focusing on his education. Adam's priorities warp as a consequence and this results in him clashing with his wife for the first time.
Plot is slow in parts especially during the first half of the film. However, as the film progresses it morphs into more of a dramatic burn, as though it is a slower version of a Pretty Little Liars episode. This isn’t a bad thing! Director Scott knows his audience, particularly with Riverdale actress Mendes assuming the main role. Yet the script is a little stilted at times and ends up catching up with the audience, who have the ability to guess what is happening first. It doesn’t live up to its full potential and could be more chilling and unpredictable within its dramatic genre.
Yet, the film does pick up in the latter half, when the audience and characters alike begin to question Adam’s motives and how the fear of losing everything makes him go crazy. It becomes clear that husband and wife have different monetary priorities as the plot progresses, which makes them seem even younger. It is as though Adam’s love for Katie is deeply entwined with monetary love, implying that they don’t really know each other.
Cleverly shot, the camera colours and the overall look of Dangerous Lies is the real substance to the film. It is well-toned, looking exactly like a classic Netflix style drama/thriller (ie. Anything that Camila Mendes stars in). The opening scene in particular is an immediate hook, as the diner scene lights up in a spectrum of bold colours. A good use of lighting and shadows working against each other is continued throughout, creating an ominous tone. Abrupt scene changes also add to this, with uniquely shot moments such as the camera being underneath working garden shears, or sitting in the back of a car as it is reversing, which makes the film feel an extra layer of sinister.
Performance-wise, acting was scarcely above average. The actors give enough to spark audience sympathy, but not much else. Mendes does well to follow the script and constantly verbalise what Katie is thinking, but this isn’t very effective within the narrative as it doesn’t allow the audience to fill in the gaps. This is perhaps because the drama itself is hard to follow during those crucial moments and so the script over-explains itself.
Despite her only being Leonard’s carer for four months, Gould’s characterisation of him was a little odd. They appear too close too fast, which seems unrealistic, but this could work in the film’s favour in that it feels unexpected. However, some of the supposed key characters feel out of place. Audience members can’t help but wish that Detective Chesler’s (Sasha Alexander) character was more established, as her motives aren’t that clear and she acts hostile for no reason. Lawyer Julia (Jamie Chung) too doesn’t seem to appear for a lot of the initial key plot moments and then turns out to be **spoiler alert** integral to the storyline. It seems strange that these characters lack personality depth and seem to only exist for the characters.
Despite having to suspend your disbelief for parts of the film, it is ultimately enjoyable to watch. Michael Scott knows the audience he is catering for and delivers a ninety-minute ‘what you see is what you get.’ It’s not necessarily a film to be watched twice, nor does it offer anything that unique in the way of film-making, but it's good escapism while it lasts.
Dangerous Lies is streaming on Netflix now.