Directed: Matt Checkowski, Kurt Mattila
Writer: Noah Hawley
Starring: Steve Coogan, Rebecca Romijn, Sam Elliott
Tagline: “You Cheat. We Lie.”
Trivia: This film’s screenplay was the very first produced script writer-director Noah Hawley has ever written.
Movies that go straight to DVD or to very limited cinema showing, are usually not rated high, it’s as if the distributors didn’t think they are good enough and therefore try to get as much as possible from them.
Therefore imagine my surprise when such a movie becomes so good it’s sometimes on repeat on our house. This is the case with The Alibi (also known as Lies & Alibis)
This straight-to-video comedy is better than most theatrical comedies I’ve seen. It begins by setting up the “extraordinary occupation” and then launches into the typical “extraordinary situation,” even though the first one is usually enough.
Ray Elliot (Steve Coogan), is the owner of a company that provides first-class alibis for cheating spouses (mainly men, but also women, the film points out).
He hires the crafty Lola (Rebecca Romijn) to join his team, just before he agrees to help out an old client’s son by swapping identities for the weekend.
The spoiled young man (James Marsden) gets into some trouble though, which ends up putting Ray in the crosshairs of a Mormon hitman (Sam Elliott), an angry yet logical thug (John Leguizamo), and an aggressive murderer from his past.
Throw in a sex-hungry Mormon wife (Selma Blair) and a cop hot on his trail (Deb Mazar), and our anti-hero has a lot to deal with. Fortunately for him, planning to cover tracks is what he does for a living, and the film benefits by showing (and not showing) him in action.
Coogan is, as usual, in top form, which calls on his comedic timing, and is carried by his ability as a leading man. Though in many ways the film feels like a noir story told by Elmore Leonard, there’s a lot of unique moments that rely on Coogan being able to portray a cool demeanour in the face of danger.
That kind of performance can come off as cartoonish, like a James Bond parody, but Coogan makes it work. One scene, in which he faces three attackers in a bar, is so genuine to the character’s personality, that it rise above the cliché its set up as, something this film does repeatedly.
The one pulling the strings onscreen is Ray, but the real manipulators are co-directors Kurt Mattila and Matt Checkowski for energetically moving things along and providing some real flair during the final third act when about eighteen different plot lines must come together.
A bigger sense of gratitude goes to them for also playing fair with the audience and allowing us to become a participant in Ray’s magnificent plan rather than wait for big twists to double back on our expectations. There is one to speak of, but its telegraphed enough so as not to completely pull the rug out from under us.
There are no dead spots anywhere in Noah Hawley‘s solid script, and Matt Checkowski and Kurt Mattila‘s impressive directing creates a visually engaging story.
The two sides of the storytelling combine in the lengthy, climactic resolution of all the storylines, a segment of film that’s tightly plotted and shot, and delivered with near perfection, drawing everything together.
It’s rare to see such a satisfying ending to such a stylish film, but The Alibi pays off big time.
Verdict – 5/5 Stars in my book