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A movie where the acting comes first.
martymaster19 June 2002
This movie has first class acting.Tim Rooth delivers a great performance and so does Michael Rooker.The movie is very dark and mysterious.A big part of the movie takes place in a little room,but this just helps make the movie even better.The story is really clever and it reminds me a lot of Usual suspects.This movie uses good camera work and great acting to build the story,and that is they way it should be.Good thriller with lots of suspense.
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You'll love the movie if you are intelligent enough to understand the psychological games
philip_vanderveken16 November 2004
It isn't too hard to understand why this movie wasn't a great success at the box office. Most people expect to see an average Hollywood version of a cop movie and they will be very disappointed when seeing this one. No, it isn't about the good cop chasing the bad guys, making a beautiful little hole in the forehead of everyone that doesn't obey the law. This movie is much more subtle and probably a lot harder to understand for a lot of people.

In fact, the whole movie is created around only three actors. But not just three actors, we are talking about Chris Penn, Tim Roth and Michael Rooker, who all did an excellent job. Trust me, never have I been more fascinated by three men in a darkened room, pushing each other to their mental and physical limits.

This is how the story goes: A prostitute has been murdered and there is one suspect. He's an extremely intelligent, epileptic alcoholic who is able to deceive everybody, even the polygraph. His investigators try to make him confess the murder by playing little mind games, only to see that he outsmarts them time after time.

The dialogs are fascinating, the use of flashbacks very interesting. Add some tense interrogation scenes with a lot of psychological war fare and a huge plot twist at the end of the movie and you know you have something special. I guess those psychological games will not be understood by everybody, but you'll love it if you are intelligent enough to understand them. I know I did and I give this movie an 8/10.
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I love this movie
Straightforward4 February 2006
I love a movie that will capture me from the beginning and never let go. This movie was like that for me. This is the movie that made me a fan of TIM ROTH. He is fascinating to watch, and the character he plays is fascinating to watch.

The movie goes into the psychology of each of the lead players, and I found myself collecting ever more answers -- with always a few more questions with each answer.

It's not one of those kinds of films that tries to make sure you know the answer to anything -- yet lets you see most everything -- and still find yourself wondering. It's got little action, yet is continually stimulating and thought-provoking, interesting and fun to watch.

I've seen this movie more than once and it's one of those rare films I know I will enjoy watching again and again -- and I think that every time I watch it I have new answers -- and new questions. Anyone interested in psychology will love this film. The acting are all excellent, the cinematography wonderfully mood-setting, the direction superb. I gave it 10 stars.
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Poor story and average structure take away from the tough acting and tense atmosphere
bob the moo10 October 2004
A prostitute is brutally murdered and the police's only lead is James Walter Wayland, a drunken epileptic who is heir to a very successful textiles company. With little to go on but his testimony, Detectives Braxton and Kennesaw hook him up to a polygraph and begin to question him further. Wayland's arrogance and contempt for them immediately rubs them up the wrong way and they increasingly suspect that he is not telling them everything. They keep pushing him, aware of his illness, in the hope that he will start to crack. However what they never foresaw was that Wayland would push back, getting information on both the men and turning the tables on them.

With a pretty heavy weight cast, I was attracted to this film when it went by the much better name of 'Liar' in the UK without really knowing a great deal about it. The film has an interesting premise and offers a good flashback structure with some tense interrogation scenes but the plot is not strong enough to really deliver this and ends up twisting into some silly places that fail to convince. The development of the story meant we were thrown in at the deep end – not a problem at first, but I never really got a handle on the film until near the end, making sections of it unengaging. The way the plot turns and twists is also a problem, because very little of it actually rings true, with some of it seeming extreme or just plain nonsensical. It is delivered well though, the interview room is used to increase the tension and seems to become steadily darker throughout the film to produce a good mood.

This tense mood is helped by a pretty good cast, in particular the lead three who have enough testosterone to start a riot. Roth plays the meatier role from the start and he does have fun even if I didn't think his epileptic thing really worked that well. Penn is OK but doesn't have much to do other than bash heads with his co-stars, but it is Rooker who manages to steal a lot of the film. Starting with the feel of just a tough guy role, Rooker delivers a much more complex person with self-loathing that is convincing (up until the script takes his character away). The three interact well and the tension between them almost covers from the fact that the story isn't actually that good – but their shared scenes at least have a tough energy that makes them watchable. Support from Arquette, Zellweger and Burstyn is fleeting but adds the feeling of depth.

Overall this is not that good a film; the story isn't convincing and is full of silly jumps, nor is it structured that well. However these problems are slightly covered by three tough actors in a small dark room, providing a reasonably good sense of tension and urgency. Of course without the story to back them up, the film gradually starts to come apart and delivers a deeply unsatisfying ending, but it just about has enough going for it to make it watchable.
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2 cops try to solve a murder by using a polygraph
helpless_dancer6 September 1999
An epileptic man takes a lie detector test to prove he had nothing to do with the death of a stripper. During the test, the private lives of the investigators comes to light due to an investigation by the investigated man. This causes the case to take a strange turn. The film flashed back and forth in time showing the cheap tawdry lives of all involved in the bizarre circumstances. Great story and fascinating dialogue kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through. 4 stars.
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Lie Detectors Don't Tell the TRUTH!
whpratt121 October 2004
This was a very different film with very difficult roles to play and all the actors, Chris Penn, Ellen Burstyn and Renee Zellweger all did a fantastic job in trying to make this film believable. Most of the film deals with flashbacks, lots of sitting down with lie detectors and even the police wind up having to take a test. There are many twists and turns to this story and you really cannot look away too quickly or you will find yourself getting lost and completely mixed up. After viewing this picture, you can see why Lie Detectors are not really used in a COURT OF LAW! The ending of this film will fool you completely! The cops and bad guy in this film all have secrets and some how, it all works out in the END!
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As usual, Roth rocks
Rogue-326 April 2004
There are two reasons to see Deceiver - one is for the great performance from the always-superb Tim Roth, and the second is for the superb performance from the always-great Tim Roth. In all fairness, the two detectives and Renee Zellweger were excellent as well. The story is convoluted in a way but sometimes that's not really a bad thing, if the convoluted-ness is done in a creative fashion, as it is here. I have to say that I saw the ending coming about three-fourths of the way through, but it was still very engrossing nonetheless, the kind of film that leaves you nodding with a satisfied smirk on your face at the end because you DID figure it out, and sometimes that's not a bad thing either.
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Dark and suspenseful '90s film noir
kmcelroy227 June 2001
The cast, the camera work, the music and the dialogue all create a dark and surreal tone that's haunting and riveting. Tim Roth, Renee Zellweger and Ellen Burstyn all dominate so completely that you can't look at anyone else when they're onscreen. It's as much an exercise in acting and "mood" as anything, but the story is fun to follow. I don't think it's supposed to be "believable" in the literal sense. How can it be when they throw in epilepsy, absinthe, prostitution, family dysfunction, etc. Every character was well-cast (LOVED the psychologist) and the tension and undertones in the actor's interactions with each other make it an impossible-to-forget movie. It's one of the few I own. The scenes with Mook (Burstyn) as well as those with Roth and Zellweger are ingenious. A movie that must be watched closely to understand the ending.
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Absolutely riveting and brilliant Psychological Mystery/Thriller. Outstanding performances all around...
lathe-of-heaven2 November 2022
Ah... I cannot write enough to praise this film. It has always been one of my very favourites. The tone and atmosphere of the movie in my lowly and wretched opinion is one of the very best.

The way it continues to tighten the screws, so to speak, and build the tension as the movie goes along is truly masterful. All are excellent here, but Tim Roth should have a frigg'n OSCAR for this one.

I honestly cannot understand the few here who rate this film so low and speak of it like it is so poorly done. Completely mystified... For me personally, having over 9500 titles in my personal collection, I would genuinely have to say that this film here is one of THE top Crime Thrillers made. Yes, the ending in a bit ambiguous and it doesn't spell it out for you. But, to me, that is part of the artistry of the story. It does an outstanding job of drawing the audience along to the point where we may THINK we know what happened, but are not 100% sure. I'm sorry, but these few here who say this film is 'Muddled' and confusing, I'm afraid are totally missing the point.

Again, with this movie we are talking about the high realm occupied by Classics like 'THE USUAL SUSPECTS', etc... This one is of course far lower budget and not quite as flashy, but the sold, brilliant writing/directing/acting is right there.

Clearly I feel that this movie is most highly recommended for anyone who likes an extremely well done Crime/Mystery/Thriller. I gave it what is in my case a VERY rare, but quite well deserved '9'
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That's the point of the game isn't it?
hitchcockthelegend21 July 2013
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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Makes no sense....
merklekranz22 October 2007
Loaded with fine actors, I expected much more from "Deceiver" than was delivered. The plot is extremely contrived and manipulative. The many flashbacks only add to the confusion. Believability flies out the window and with the ending becomes unbearable and downright ridiculous. I would strongly advise anyone who likes their movie plots to be based on something that is at least possible to avoid "Deceiver" because you will be very frustrated. Maybe I am just not hip enough to get it, but my suspicion is that many others were totally confused by the story line and especially by the ending. Blurring the line between reality and lies simply does not work because the entire movie made no sense. - MERK
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Pretension is not enough
celr24 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, this is not really a mystery thriller, it's more of an opportunity for the actors to chew the scenery. The plot makes no sense and the ending even less. It is pretentious in the extreme. Evidently the writers thought they were exploring the depths of the human soul and how people deceive themselves and others. Actually it's a mess. The three main characters, the suspect (Tim Roth) and the two cops are rotten to the core; in fact every character in this movie is rotten except for the prostitute/victim (Zellweger) who's an amiable dunce.

A young woman has been murdered. The suspect is hooked to a lie detector and begins a game of psychological cat and mouse, the premise of which is so bogus it's impossible to sustain interest. All three, suspect and two cops, are lying and covering up unsavory parts of their lives. I got the feeling that the script was designed by postmodernists who don't believe there is any reality or any truth. This makes for terrible storytelling because if there's no reality as a reference point, there is absolutely no interest in the outcome. This is "Last Year at Marianbad" disguised as thriller.

The ending doesn't make any sense because we are never told who actually committed the murder. We're given a brief scene, about five seconds, at the very end which suggests that the suspect has in fact faked his death and is revived, but that is too little to be sure of anything. How could that happen? Or was that just another flashback? Since everything seems to take place in an alternate surrealistic universe, where nothing makes sense anyway, then the only thought we are left with is: "Who cares?"
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Unconventional film, thought provoking, excellent portrayal
waterdancer29 August 2003
The movie "Deceiver" was done in a very creative and unusual style. Unconventional camera angles and editing lent well to the story line's confusion and general uneasiness that the actors themselves were feeling. The film is thought provoking with excellent character portrayals. Tim Roth's performance was exceptionally believable and extremely well done. All in all, a very well thought out production that I thoroughly enjoyed!
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badly flawed high baroque murder thriller
donaldking29 January 2011
This has hints of Abel Ferrara about it (esp. the welcome appearance of the late and lamented Chris Penn from Ferrara's 'The Funeral.') I've seen this twice now, and am still not quite sure who really murdered Elizabeth. It doesn't really matter, I suppose, but there's a sense here in which style predominates a bit too strongly over substance. Michael Rooker & Tim Roth overact a bit - so the steadying presence of Chris Penn is helpful here. I'd liked to have known more about Roth's upbringing and so forth than we're granted. The scenes of him with his parents & friends are some of the best - all that baloney with lie detectors in dimly lit rooms becomes a bit dreary after a while.

Nice to see 1) Michael Parks (one of the nastiest villains in Twin Peaks) - here confirming one's idea that psychiatrists and psychologists are easily more strange and conflicted than their patients, and 2) Mark Damon - most famous in American cinema from Roger Corman's Fall of the House of Usher way back in 1960! Worth an outing if you should ever get bored with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but hardly worth all the effort you need to expend in an attempt to 'work out the story.' (By the way, are all American police really like this?)
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"The Usual Suspects" it ain't.
gridoon29 April 2004
"Deceiver" starts out as a riveting thriller, but bogs down somewhere in the middle and leads to increasingly far-fetched and unbelievable "revelations". The "mind game" is probably my favorite movie "genre", but the Pate Brothers need more practice before they can be called virtuoso players. I expected a lot more from this flick. (**1/2)
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A dumb fantasy
newjersian26 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A suspect forces his investigator to take a polygraph test. A cop plays Russian roulette with the suspect during the interrogation. The interrogation at the police station is performed with very dimmed lights. That drivel, in the minds of the makers of this movie, should create an impression of a very smart psychological thriller. However, it's just dumb.
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Tim Roth Jewel!!
kalibeans18 December 2014
Somehow this hidden treasure had escaped my radar until now. As usual Tim Roth does not disappoint. The accused characters mentally abused by his disconnected parents, epilepsy and absinthe addicted personality seems custom written for Roth. In truth, few other actors could have pulled that off. There are stories within stories here and the movie holds your attention throughout. A modern day noir with a great surprise ending. Two powerhouse actresses, Patricia Arquette and Renee Zellwegger were under utilized in this film. Chris Penn gives an adequate performance as the junior and somewhat less intelligent assistant detective, but his ignorance is not as great as the audience is made to think. I was a little surprised by the relatively low 6.4 rating. This film deserves much better. Well worth your time.
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Not one of Tim Roth's best films
fran720428 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
There are a lot of twists and turns in this film and the majority of the plot and the characters behaviour are not credible at all. It begins well but suddenly the viewer is catapulted into total confusion. The viewer is not sure whether anything or anyone is real. ..................SPOILER COMING UP................................. Personally I think that Tim Roth's character is bad. He is a rich boy who knows it and doesn't like anyone telling him what to do/think and thinks he is above the law. He uses his money and intelligence to do what he wants and this gets him out of a very bad situation. He is attracted to and thrives on an 'otherness' to his world of responsibility - illegal liqour, vice, drugs, murder.
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Not half as smart as it tries to be.
aramo125 July 2002
Based on R1 DVD 102 min.

After a reasonable start this movie descends into a muddled bog of unbelief by the end. Chris Penn has to act like a dumbfounded statue; a part he plays rather well; while his fellow cop (Rooker) steals a couple of scenes from the Shining and the Dear Hunter. The ending is not really a big surprise but one has to ask why anyone would bother going to such lengths.

A big failing with The Deceiver is not that it is often confused or confusing but that it makes no real effort to make the viewer care.

5/10 catch it on TV
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Deceived indeed
baunacholi-8615923 April 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I love a good thrill and even more twists and turns. But here it's not working in my POV. Like a roundabout u ride a tad too long. Whereas one or two twists are fine to help to tell a story or give the audience a level of surprise, it gets repetitive and actually boring up to the point I didn't care anymore who did what and why. The biggest issue however was that the movie tries to be uber clever and different at all costs.
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Help with this one, please
robertllr9 August 2000

I am usually great with puzzle pictures. But parts of this one confused me.

Now, I realize the whole of the Roth character's act is all an elaborate plot to get the him off the hook and back on the streets. (Implausible as the faked-death ending is, the clues are in plain sight.)

But what I don't get is (and this is partly because the dialogue is very nearly inaudible: What has "Braxton's" bad debt (also faked?)got to do with it? Why is it necessary that he be dragged in? Is this a sort of back-up maneuver, "Plan A", as it were, to bribe them off the case? And why does Roth give up the game to him?

And what about Kennesaw? Did he really kill her? I couldn't make out much of that Russian roulette scene. What is going on?
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Kept me guessing
Capt_comicbook4 September 2003
7 out of 10.

A great Rental movie. This thriller had me guessing all the way up to the end. I waffled back and forth from disliking characters to liking them.

Roth is again great as a nuerotic over priveleged epeleptic. He is by no means a physically imposing man, but in some of the scenes, you get a real sense that this guy is dangerous.

I also like any casting of Penn as the laughable but sincere looser.

This movie is one of those rare pick-ups at Blockbuster..... never commercially touted, but seeing the actors on the box makes ya pick it up.... You get it home and wow.... its a great movie.
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Mexican Standoff
sol-kay3 December 2008
(Major Spoilers) The film "Deceiver" has to do with a routine interrogation of a murder suspect that goes completely haywire with the person being interrogated turning the tables on his interrogators.

As were introduced to the three major players in the film were also given, besides their backgrounds and extent of their education, their IQ scores! By the time the movie is over the persons IQ's more then explains how they grasps the situation, or situations,that they ended up finding themselves in.

The heir to the Wayland textile fortune James Walter Wayland, Tim Roth, has been picked up as a prime suspect in the brutal murder of prostitute Elizabeth Loftus, Renee Zellweger. Elizabeth was found dismembered, like the infamous Black Dalia back in the 1940's, with her body sawed in half and in two different locations.

The two cops on the case detective Ed Kennesaw,Michael Rooker, and his partner Phil Braxton, Chris Penn,seem to have broken the case with Wayland suddenly changing his testimony, during a lie detector test, and almost-but not quite- admitting his guilt! You at first get the impression that Wayland is truly guilty and is somehow trying to construct an insanity defense for himself. This is all due to Waylands severe infliction of temporal lob epilepsy that causes him to forget what he does after he all of a sudden loses it. Despite Dr. Banyard (Michael Parks), who diagnosed Wayland's illness, warning not to as much as touch Wayland when he goes into an epileptic fit Det. Kennesaw grabs an out of control, while he's being interrogated, Wayland and almost gets killed by him. This has Kennesaw, who had no love for Wayland in the first place, to get really aggressive towards Wayland in trying to pin Elizabeth Loftus's murder on him.

As the movie reaches the midway point Wayland's actions become more and more obvious in that he's somehow using both Kennesaw & Braxton most hidden fears and secret lifestyles, that has both men on the very edge, to his own advantage. Braxton a compulsive gambler is in hock to big time bookie The Mook, Ellen Burstyn, for $20,000.00. The Mook, like all bookies, a sore loser is furious that Braxton got a hot tip from horse-racing tote Jebby, Bob Hungerford, in a race where a 50 to 1 shot ended up winning. The mad as hell Mook feels that Braxton somehow stiffed her out the money that he, as far as I can see, won fair and square.

Now with his, as well has his families, life on the line Braxton desperately needs the 20 grand to keep The Mook's henchmen from breaking both his arms and legs as well as doing harm to his wife and two young daughters! With no one to go for help but his partner Kennesaw, who can only cough up half of what Braxton owes The Mook, it's turns out that the very rich and manipulating Wayland is Braxton's only hope to settle the score with the Mook.

****MAJOR MAJOR SPOILER**** The stuff that comes out, from Wayland, about Det. Kennesaw is far more shocking in that he in fact was involved with the murdered Elizabeth Loftus, as one of her Johns, on the very evening that she's was murdered! This in fact explains why Kennesaw is so determined to have Wayland indited in Miss. Loftus murder! Or is it!

The ending in "Decevier" will blow you away in that everything that you, as well as Det's Braxton & Kennesaw, thought you knew about the brutal murder of Elizebeth Loftus is in fact turned upside down! And believe it or not that's, which should have been the big surprise in the movie, what turns out to be the films only as well as major flaw!
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Good flick
newby_rox328 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers

The staged death near the end was a bit implausible and Braxton's part was not completely explained. Seems the money he puts in the Lieutenant Kennesaw's drawer is planted to give the Lieutenant grief, but was Braxton in on it? Is the appearance of Kennesaw taking payments or bribes sufficient justice for a murderer? Especially when they had a videotape showing that Kennesaw knew the hooker and was sexually violent with her -- possibly enough to establish a solid case for homicide? So why not just have him arrested and forego the need for Wayland to go underground and lose his inheritance?

Like IMDBer "Robertllr" asked, why was the staged Braxton "debt" to Mookie integral to the plot? Sure, it was a flexing by Wayland, but unnecessary. And why other than to feed one's own ego was this insidious game even played against the police, especially tormenting Kennesaw?

Yes there were lots of implausibilities and possibly unexplained parts of the plots.

Elisabeth was adorable and rose above the part and lines, upstaging Rosanna Arquette (Mrs. Kennesaw) who had a similar part but looked terrible in character. Shapely Elisabeth is pretty and portrayed the tenderness in her platonic bond with Wayland nicely.

The shrink and Mookie are famous actors and their fairly minor parts were very well-played. Ellen Burstyn as Mookie, with that hair, looked like Cate Blanchett when she played Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There."

The film showed some anti-law enforcement leanings: a guy gets routinely manhandled by two cops in the background yet visible area at the station, just outside the interrogation room.

The police in my city are much smarter and better-educated than this.

The polygraph team is composed of a security guard that barely finished high school, and a knotted up, jealous, insecure tough, who are openly advertising they have, can and will manipulate the testing to try to convict Wayland, and brag about how poor lie detector results have locked men up for years. The most blatant incredibility is the cops' simplistic read on Wayland's answers: OK you have admitted to lies that aren't white lies so you must be a habitual, malicious liar. When he showed them he could trick the lie detector machine by picking a playing card, and causing it to malfunction when he lied and told the truth, they naturally would have suspended the test. And the cops' remarks that you can't outsmart the machine" was ludicrous and inconsistent, as polygraph tests are not determinant.

I liked everything about else this film. It wasn't as involved as Usual Suspects, and the similarities were few. I disagree with Ebert about this being about cleverness for cleverness' sake, and the plot trumping the actors. But I can't hold a candle to Ebert.

Roth received a British Oscar and has been nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Ebert says the plot upstaged the actors and that this as a film about actors rather than characters. It's interesting that he's the star of TV's "Lie to Me," in which he's Dr. Cal Lightman, an Expert in Lies and Liars.

I liked the ending. What tipped it to me was the mortician with the shiner, though the overly-long camera shot on the face of the vaguely familiar ambulance-driver only sort of evoked a little suspicion.

Got it this as my free Blockbuster "oldies" flicks. What a treasure!
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I was trapped in this film!
soloview22 September 2002
My husband got this movie in a bargain bin for $2.99. Was ready to eject it but got hooked immediately. Barely blinked as we watched it. Totally compelling.

Have rarely seen Tim Roth. but Wow!, will watch for his name from now on. He was Absolutely Terrific. He played a suspect with an exceptional IQ so easily & convincingly that it must inherently be one of his qualities. Is he lying? Is he simply uncannily perceptive? Is he playing a role? Is it all a big joke to him?

The answers are not thrown at you or simplistic. The script makes you work at them (which I appreciate).

As the story continues something sinister but slightly out of reach takes over -- a knowing without knowing, a suspicion, a hint, an underlying gnawing -- is it real? Or something we're reading into it the plot?

I bought these characters totally. They were as real as they were mesmerizing.

The ending was taut & compelling, as was the whole movie. Who kept this under wraps?

It's a real find & if you do find to, grab it up: it's well worth it.
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