Every week or so, Netflix releases anywhere between one and four original movies; for everyone stuck at home right now, me included, that leaves so much choice it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there’s a ranking system showing the top ten items streaming in the country, so those less inclined to look for themselves can hop on the bandwagon and watch whatever everyone else is during their quarantine. Dangerous Lies, a new Netflix original movie released on April 30th, sits at a comfortable number two in the nation for streaming of both movies and television shows, and number one for movie streaming, as of the writing of this review. I wasn’t originally planning on watching it; in fact, I was planning on something different that actually sparked my interest. But after seeing its ranking, and realizing that the weekend is yet again upon us and most people will be tuning into to see what’s popular, I figured I might as well join them to see why the film is doing so well. Before I get into it, I’d just like to say that, for the record, I wish I hadn’t.
Dangerous Lies is a typical who-done-it mystery revolving around Katie (Camila Mendes) and her husband Adam (Jessie T. Usher), who inherit the estate of a wealthy man, Leonard (Elliot Gould), after taking care of his property for a few months while struggling to pay their bills. In most of my reviews, I like to go a little bit deeper into the plot to give the reader a sense of how the film is paced; what happens to the characters to motivate them, how they change over the course of their adventure, and so on. But after just a few minutes of the film, it was clear to me that each character was so shockingly unintelligent, I would have to spend my review instead correcting the course of the script in order to reach reality.
The plot can be broken down like this: Katie finds Leonard dead in his chair after only knowing him for a few months. After the police leave, Katie and Adam find one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of loose bills stashed away in the attic. They debate over what to do before taking it all and placing it in a safe deposit box. Over the course of the movie, they argue about the money as if everyone, including the police, somehow knows it exists. Then Leonard’s lawyer shows up with a will that says he left everything to Katie; this negates the issue with the loose money then, right? After all, if she was left with his estate, everything in the house, including that money, is hers now. But the screenwriter has no idea how laws work, so the characters don’t either. And what would a struggling young couple do after being given a huge estate in a wealthy neighborhood? Why, move out of their comfy apartment and into it, of course! That not only makes them look suspicious but is also one of the most monumentally dumb things anyone in that situation could do. The place is worth millions. Just sell it, and then, even if the loose cash was somehow illegal, you could easily funnel the money back into your life without the IRS crashing through your window, because now they see you have a ton of money legally.
There’s even more to this plot, and it really only gets worse from there. I could write another thousand words pulling apart every other ridiculous, impulsive decision these characters make, who in our world, would be set and rolling in dough until the next housing crisis. But I’d rather talk about the acting, which stands out as some of the worst in a Netflix production I’ve seen in a long time. It feels more akin to a well-produced high school play then a feature film. Mendes and Usher slog through their lines like a kid trying to clean their plate of asparagus, all the while the script continually tries to drive them apart for no apparent reason other than to manufacture drama. It’s almost like the screenwriter couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to tell their story within the rules of real-life, and instead bends the film’s universe to his uncompromisingly dense and sheltered world view.
Shallow, vapid, and meaningless, Dangerous Lies is a filler-filled film made only to keep the idlest minds entertained for ninety minutes. Other than occupying space on the Netflix servers, it hard to find any purpose in watching what is surely the dullest mystery I’ve ever come across.