Lies and Illusions
It has become fairly commonplace for a film to straddle several genres; there are some combinations like drams and comedy that just naturally blend resulting in a movie that brings together the best of both types of films. On the other extreme of the spectrum are those films that, in any effort to be something novel attempt to cover a wider variety of genres overreach and their ambitions set goals that are difficult it not impossible to achieve. A movie that follows that tact is much like a novice chef who feels compelled to integrate every ingredient in the kitchen into a single recipe. While each ingredient is still capable of imparting it own contribution to the overall bend of flavors the end result is too complicated to give a true sense of identity to the dish, this is the unfortunate case with the film ‘Lies and Illusions’. It comes across like those dreadful paisley ties that, for some unknown reason, popular in the seventies. This movie goes off in so many different paths that it is unable to find or maintain a realistic voice of its own. It is fairly easy to understand how a flick like this received approval for its budget and production. Even though the film reportedly cost only $8.5 million with most studios cutting back this does represent a leap of faith on their part. A good portion of this is without a doubt due in large measure to the cast. Christian Slater and Cuba Gooding Jr. May be waning from the height of their popularity but they are still bankable at least in cable and DVD markets. To that end the movie is released on both DVD and Blu-ray and can be considered a semi-reasonable popcorn flick but unfortunately missed reaching it overly optimistic goals.
Bringing together an action thriller with comedy is extremely difficult to pull off. Typically humor is infused in a more tongue in cheek fashion to help the pacing of an action movie such as was done to perfection in the Indiana Jones films. There the added genre was successful because it was used as a spice not a primarily ingredient. Most importantly the writer in that case was very experienced and fully understood the individual genre requirements. The author of this script, Eric James, is just starting out with this serving as his freshman entry. I have to give him a lot of credit for doing as well as he did for a first timer. At least he took on something that was beyond is current level but certainly will help him grow in the expression of his craft. The story is forced to switch gears too often in an attempt to satisfy the demands of each included type of movie. With some additional work under his belt hopefully he can break away from his dependency on hackney clichés that abound here.
Directing this film was Tibor Takács who has some previous experience. Much of his credits are for those fast and inexpensive original movies made for the Sci-Fi channel. His work has included such Saturday night specials as ‘Tornado Warning’, ‘Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep’ and ‘Mansquito’. It does take a special skill set to bring these flick in on time and within their meager budget so time spent in such endeavors is excellent training. Still, with that said, this was just biting off a bit too much at this point. Both the writing and direction demonstrate innate talent that requires growth and further development. His fundamental style is solid without the film school fluffy that many newer directors depend. Takács has created a visually interesting movie that makes good use of the detail oriented high definition format. He has a strong sense of how to compose a shot which makes this movie interesting at least from the technical aspect. This is almost derailed in the opening credits which were taken directly from an old grind house spy thriller of the seventies complete with the ‘mod’ animation and score.
Christian Slater plays Wes Wilson; a bestselling author who specializes in relationship oriented self help books. One of the main components of his advice is the importance of role playing. He keeps this advice on a personal level by pretending to try to pick up his fiancée Samantha (Sarah Ann Schultz). They announce their engagement at a party throw by his publisher but the happiness is extremely fleeting. Directly after the party the couple is brutally attacked in the garage, Wes knocked out and Samantha apparently killed. Behind the attack is a mobster, Isaac (Cuba Gooding Jr.) who is determined to get back something Samantha stole from him. It also turns out that Samantha has been keeping a lot from Wes including a safety deposit box and a shady lawyer. Along the way Wes meets up with an attractive reporter for a magazine, Nicole Williams (Christa Campbell). The run, Isaacs and his henchmen follow with a few fight scenes thrown in.
Thus flick is a popcorn flick that aspired to much more but wasn’t able to stay the course.