Also known as Lies and Alibis, this is one of those “who’s zooming who” comic thrillers – a bit of Tarantino dialogue, some swish Soderbergh camerawork, a twisty LA Confidential-ish plot. And Steve Coogan’s in it too. Yes, that does seem like a slightly odd casting decision – a Brit actor best known in the UK for his portrayal of gauche local DJ Alan Partridge. As with the best Coogan performances there’s a touch of Partridge in his portrayal of Ray Elliot, the head of a company which provides alibis for players in the game of sexual infidelity. Ray’s only rule is that his company won’t provide an alibi if a crime has been committed. A rule he keeps to faithfully until the son (James Marsden) of a very wealthy client (Josh Brolin) accidentally overdoes the erotic asphyxiation and kills a girl. Ray must now make the problem disappear, and the film starts its slide from light comedy to frantic caper.
Against Coogan’s British diffidence we have some very confident, megaphone even, American performances from a surprisingly mixed cast including Rebecca Romijn, Deborah Kara Unger, Henry Rollins and Selma Blair. Go further down the cast list and there’s John Leguizamo, Jaime King and Sam Elliott, so somebody at some point thought they had something on their hands. While there’s lots to like here, particularly the performances, the movie lacks the confidence of its initial premise. So as Ray finds himself increasingly out of his depth, wouldn’t you know it but his past life comes back to bite him in the ass too. Maybe Noah Hawley’s screenplay is aiming for complexity – a delicious Usual Suspects kind of vibe. What it achieves as we dash towards the finish line is a lot of running around and shouting – a farce, in other words.
© Steve Morrissey 2006