Cable pic “Love, Cheat and Steal” describes the three sides of a love/action triangle whipped up by scripter/helmer William Curran and Showtime; vidpic has trouble coming full circle in the end, but in between there’s enough shapely drama and quirky plot twists to make viewing easy.
The triangle consists of banker Paul Harrington (John Lithgow), his wife Lauren (Madchen Amick), and her ex-husband, ex-con Reno Adams (Eric Roberts). Adams gets out of prison seeking revenge for the set-up Lauren orchestrated that landed him in the slammer.
Caught in the middle is Paul, a successful banker who has come home to help resurrect a small bank owned and operated by his father.
He’s also recently married Lauren, which Adams reads vengefully about in the newspaper.
Adams, played really creepily by Roberts, enters the Harrington household quickly enough, posing as Lauren’s estranged brother.
Here is where telepic over-revs, as a subplot involving the troubled bank is introduced at the same time as Adams’ plan to rob the bank. It becomes sort of a who’s-cheating-whom mystery, all while Lauren’s love ebbs and flows for both.
“Twin Peaks” vet Madchen Amick eventually warms up in the role of a femme fatale with an enigmatic libido, which neither Lithgow’s overly wise character or Roberts’ streetwise wisecracker can figure out.
Her nebulous motivations thicken the plot’s complexity.
Director Curran’s pace keeps anything from being dragged out, but simplicity in his script would have helped; plot and characters are at times tough to pin down.
Production values are decent, with Kent Wakeford’s camerawork and Jane Ann Stewart’s sets painting a rich picture.
Crime pays off in the final frames, but the ending twist misses the mark. It’s not a major loss, though, as “Love, Cheat and Steal” moves fast enough past its shortcomings to score some points.