A hooker is found cut in two. Two cops give polygraph tests to the only suspect, James Wayland (Tim Roth), an unstable genius. After some time, the roles change.


Jonas Pate, Josh Pate


Jonas Pate, Josh Pate
3 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Tim Roth ... Wayland
Chris Penn ... Det. Phillip Braxton
Michael Rooker ... Det. Edward Kennesaw
Renée Zellweger ... Elizabeth
Ellen Burstyn ... Mook
Rosanna Arquette ... Mrs. Kennesaw
Don Winston Don Winston ... Warren
Michael Parks ... Dr. Banyard
Mark Damon ... Wayland's Father
J.C. Quinn ... Priest
Jody Wilhelm Jody Wilhelm ... Mrs. Wayland
Ocie Pouncie Ocie Pouncie ... Boogie
Bob Hungerford ... Jebby
Genevieve Butler Genevieve Butler ... Mary Kennesaw
Chelsea Butler Chelsea Butler ... Chelsea Kennesaw


Textile company heir James Wayland (Tim Roth) is accused of murder of a prostitute named Elizabeth (Renée Zellweger), whose body was found cut in two in the park. The murder is investigated by tough Detective Edward Kennesaw (Michael Rooker) and his less experienced partner Phillip Braxton (Chris Penn). Wayland is a heavy drinker and compulsive liar, he is prone to memory losses and periods of heavy violence. He is rich enough to access necessary information, and he gets the interrogators' own dark secrets - Kennesaw is angry about affairs his wife had and had let off steam with Elizabeth, and Braxton has gambling debts with Mook (Ellen Burstyn), who is demanding payment.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


There are two sides to every lie. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, language and some sexual content | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Final theatrical movie of Mark Damon (Wayland's Father). See more »


[first lines]
James Walter Wayland: I'm cutting across the park, just below the reservoir. It's a nice night. I feel like walking. I met a girl on the path I knew. We had a brief conversation, then I continued on. I never saw her again.
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Black and White
Written and Performed by Joe Sample
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User Reviews

That's the point of the game isn't it?
21 July 2013 | by hitchcockthelegendSee all my reviews

Deceiver (AKA: Liar) is directed and written by Jonas and Josh Pate. It stars Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Rooker, Ellen Burstyn, Renée Zellweger and Rosanna Arquette. Music is by Harry Gregson-Williams and cinematography by Bill Butler.

The gruesome murder of a prostitute finds chief suspect James Wayland (Roth) in an interrogation room undergoing a lie detector test. Two detectives, Phillip Braxton (Penn) and Edward Kennesaw (Rooker), are overseeing the test and sure of Wayland's guilt. But they are soon to find that Wayland is no push over and as the mind games start, dark secrets begin to come into play...

Without doubt it's an acquired taste, met with indifference upon its release and still causing debates on internet forums, Deceiver is one of those films that infuriates and fascinates in equal measure. As the title of the film suggests, deception and untruths are the order of the day here, not just in the claustrophobic interrogation room, but also in how the brothers Pate toy with us the audience. With its reliance on a non linear structure and convoluted plot, focusing the attention is greatly required, especially since the use of a rug-pull device will either seal or kill the deal.

As the walls close in on the interrogation room sequences and the flashbacks and character subplots flit in and out of the tale, the Pate brothers bring striking photography and angles into play. Sometimes it's a POV camera technique that has an edginess that seems to be probing for a crack in the armour of the person it looks at, at other instances it's distorted backdrops that run concurrently with the psychological chaos buzzing around the sweat tinged room. While the dialogue the characters are given crackles with the hard-boiled intensity that graced many a 40s and 50s noir thriller.

With a trio of superb lead male performances leading the way and a narrative loaded with duplicity and deviousness, Deceiver is crackerjack neo-noir. It's guilty of excess at times, and it's not hard to understand why some find the trickery too much to bare, but for those who like labyrinthine crime thrillers then this hits the spot. In fact! Repeat viewing is very much recommended. 8/10

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

30 January 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Earl Watt See more »

Filming Locations:

Charleston, South Carolina, USA


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$279,103, 1 February 1998

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

MDP Worldwide See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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