WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
After losing her waitressing job, Katie Franklin (Camila Mendes) takes a job as a caretaker to a wealthy elderly man in his sprawling, empty Chicago estate. The two grow close, but when he unexpectedly passes away and names Katie as his sole heir, she and her husband Adam (Jessie T. Usher) are pulled into a complex web of lies, deception, and murder. If she's going to survive, Katie will have to question everyone's motives — even the people she loves.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
What is a TV movie anymore these days? In the golden age of broadcast, it was a showcase of mediocrity, like the cheap novellas bought at airport kiosks, designed to fill timeslots with a low budget and B-list stars. But streaming platforms have revolutionised this industry outside of cinema - pumping out award-winning movies only to be seen on digital TV.
But the real TV movie still lives on, and Dangerous Lies is proof there is still a market for these simple plots that’s more about the paperback mystery than articulate dialogue and metaphors. It was trending number one in South Africa on Netflix when it was released - perhaps a side-effect of our current cooped-up lives. What you see is exactly what you get - the most typical TV movie to have ever TV movie’d.
Helmed by Riverdale starlet Camila Mendes and supported by The Boys actor Jessie Usher, Dangerous Lies follows a financially struggling couple pulled into a web of mysteries after the surprise inheritance of an employer’s house. Cue the ‘da da daaaa’ music.
What I love the most about these mediocre mystery TV movies are the plot twists. They exist for the sake of itself, and this movie spews them forth like a machine gun. This person isn’t who you think he is, that one has a hidden agenda - oh wait - it’s REALLY not what you think, let’s backtrack a few scenes to your original assumption. And they aren’t even tidy - if you don’t watch out you’ll trip over all the loose ends lying about, and some of the biggest questions you are left with will never be answered.
Luckily the cast knows what they’re in for - they all give the minimum performance required. Not too bad to tarnish their reputation but not too much to make them comically stand out in the banality. Even director Michael Scott and writer David Golden know what they got paid to do - both veterans in the TV movie industry - and if you go in with high expectations that’s your own damn fault.
I hated the cheapness of the film - but I will never begrudge people who enjoy these kinds of empty-headed filler movies (especially when paired with a drinking game). I love a saucy reality show, so I’m not going to lord some holier-than-thou self-importance over this trash movie that some critics love to do.
The real question, however, that should be asked with a movie like Dangerous Lies is whether or not we still need these paint-by-numbers TV movies in the streaming age? TV has grown bigger and better, and looks like it might eventually kill the dinosaur that is cinema. Giants like Netflix, Hulu and HBO are taking more risks with bigger budgets, but there’s one truth that will keep TV movies alive and well in the golden age of TV - the audience is a gluttonous lot, and they will devour anything that comes their way. Even the plain, wafer-thin crackers that taste of nothing.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE