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Dangerous Lies (2020) Movie Review

Camila Mendes and Jessie T. Usher play a young couple whose financial struggles are erased by a sudden windfall that opens up a whole new bag of trouble in this Netflix thriller.

Dangerous Lies (2020)

Director Michael M. Scott
Stars Nick Purcha, Joe Costa, Camila Mendes
Country USA
Genres Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Initial release 30 April 2020
Language English

Like those movies that nobody appears to sniff a dead body disintegrating above the carport for two years. A smart cop’s misgivings about a sizable inheritance never prompt her to question the attorney who drew up the will, Dangerous Lies is riddled with dumb logic. Suppose you can check your brain and go along with a mystery thriller’s absurd plotting as universal as its title. In that case, there’s a particular baseline pleasure in watching the more or less nutritious young couple at its center swim in a murky cesspool of deception and death.

Michael M. Scott directed this blandly glossy effort with journeyman efficiency. He has an epic string of TV movies to his credit, a list that includes such enticing titles as Hooked for the Holidays, Bridal Wave, My Mom’s Letter from Heaven, and It’s Christmas, Carol! (Full confession: I want to see all of those.) Dangerous Lies, sadly, has no exclamation point and nor does it merit one. It’s like the in-flight entertainment choice you make when you’re beyond caring and still waiting for your Xanax to kick in. It’s not going to change anyone’s mind about Netflix’s original film content’s patchy curation.

The noirish glow of neon at night spells danger in a prologue that sees waitress Katie working the night shift at a South Chicago diner while her husband Adam (Jessie T. Usher) occupies a table upon the sociological theory in empirical corporate analysis for his business degree. Kate seems to love him. He’s called a hero on the local news when he defeats a robbery at the diner by clobbering the equipped criminal over the top with a frying pan.
Four months later, Katie is working in the leafy suburbs as “caretaker, companion and friend” to kindly old chatterbox Leonard (Elliott Gould, classing up the joint for a minute) in his beautiful, two-story, wood-paneled home. Meanwhile, Adam has stopped taking classes, and stressed-out Katie frets as student loans, credit cards, and health insurance debts pile up. While stewing after an argument, she considers their money worries to Leonard, who gives Adam some planting work and significantly increases Katie’s paycheck. She wants to refuse it, but Adam governs her scruples.

Mickey Hayden (Real estate broker) comes sniffing around with a Trumpy tan and sharky smile. He claims to be representing a “seriously motivated” buyer interested in Leonard’s house, but we know he has a more sinister purpose, especially once he starts tailing Adam and Katie. “The place must be deserving a fate,” contemplates Adam, implying a selfish nature that begins modestly crunching at his wife.

When Leonard dies peacefully in his garret armchair, leaving no family, Adam snoops throughout and finds a trunk rammed with cash, convincing reluctant Katie to keep it. In one of the prominent B-movie traditions, nothing stokes a young couple’s desire for hot sex like filling a safe deposit box with greenbacks, even if Dangerous Lies toothlessly cuts away just as they’re going at it.

Leonard’s attorney Julia (Jamie Chung) shows up spouting poetry and informing Katie. She’s the sole beneficiary in his recently drawn up will. So she and Adam move into the house, and they live seemingly transformed overnight. But sleazy Mickey keeps circling. Katie’s boss from the home-care agency (Michael P. Northey) smells a rat and investigates officer Detective Chesler (Sasha Alexander, doing her best Connie Britton) starts asking questions that lead back to the night of the diner robbery.

Once that odorless corpse and a bag of diamonds turn up. David Golden has resembled a plausible plot in the pedestrian screenplay by David Golden (another holiday TV movie specialist) who has flown out the picture windows and immersed in Leonard’s beloved garden. But it remained suspenseful enough — well, just enough — to keep the mindless couch potato in me moderately glued until the end to find out what happened.

The movie is a silky case, with cinematographer Ronald Paul Richard delivering lots of insinuating bird’s eye views and Hitchcockian low angles, accompanied by the brooding notes of James Jandrisch’s score with occasional whispery vocals. (The setting could be any place, with British Columbia standing in for Chicago.) The attractive cast is quite capable, though seldom much more than that. And they’re a model of racial inclusiveness, even if it’s obscurely disturbing that the two main actors of color play characters who are shady AF.

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