The confidence man gets a slick makeover in “Lies & Alibis.” In a role with a distinct whiff of Cary Grant, Steve Coogan reveals yet another side of his engaging screen presence, playing a reformed grifter who provides cheating spouses with the perfect cover for their affairs. Delicious cast and a love of past capers lend the pic an entertaining fizz, pointing to good Stateside numbers for this planned fall release following current international openings in East Asian and Euro territories.
Coogan’s Ray Elliot confides in the aud, via voiceover, about the ins and outs of his Los Angeles-based firm, which he not inaccurately terms a risk assessment and management company. Noting that four in 10 husbands cheat on their wives, Ray details his services (viewed in cleverly edited montages) that allow the cheaters to carry on without leaving a paper trail.
Ears for much of this exposition, laid on with a light hand by tyro screenwriter Noah Hawley, belong to statuesque and smart Lola (Rebecca Romijn), applying for a top job at the firm.
A seemingly minor job involving spoiled son Wendell Hatch (James Marsden) of longtime client Robert (James Brolin, in rare form), explodes when Wendell accidentally kills lover Heather (Jaime King) during a weekend fling. Soon, assassins and the fearsome Mormon (Sam Elliott) are on Ray’s tail. To turn the screws tighter, Heather’s ex-con b.f. and Robert’s driver, Hannibal (John Leguizamo), violently extracts from the typically tight-lipped Ray the truth about Heather’s death as no-nonsense detective Rebecca Bryce (Debi Mazar) enters the picture, suspecting everyone.
The machinations lead to a superbly staged and edited climactic sequence at a trendy Westside hotel where all the pic’s players converge.
The one pulling the strings onscreen is Ray, but the real manipulators are co-helmers Kurt Mattila and Matt Checkowski, who obviously know the rules of good farce and alluring capers. Pacing is crackerjack, and it’s a pleasure to watch the colorful thesps mix it up (particularly Coogan, with Elliott, Romijn and Brolin).
Low-budget origins are cleverly concealed in a shiny package adorned with Enrique Chediak’s gleaming lensing and Jerry Fleming’s mod production design. Composer Alexandre Desplat extends his versatility with a score in the mode of Henry Mancini.