Liars All: Film Review

A would-be "Rashomon" is too callow to take very seriously,

Brian Brightly's debut offers multiple perspectives on an ill-fated game of Truth Or Dare.

Truth or dare turns deadly in Brian Brightly's Liars All, a mystery that aims to update Rashomon storytelling with a Shakespeare twist but plays more like a TV policier made for the 90210 crowd. Box office prospects are modest for a film whose biggest names are vets of that TV reboot and whose dramatic tension, such as it is, is neutered by a needlessly chaotic structure.

Set in London, the story concerns a group of acquaintances whose New Year's Eve debauchery led to the shooting death of a troubled woman named Missy (Gillian Zinser). Only two young men witnessed the event: Mike (Matt Lanter), a dreamy hunk whose love for Missy was unrequited, and Dennis (Torrance Coombs), the caddish football star who got her pregnant, dumped her and is now engaged to a pop singer.

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As these two and their fellow partygoers are questioned by a skeptical detective (Alice Evans), competing explanations for the death play out in flashback form. Missy killed herself, hoping her ex would take the blame; she was trying to scare Dennis and accidentally got shot in the ensuing excitement; and so on. Setting the stage for these unreliable narrators is a more-or-less agreed-upon account of the party leading up to the accident, in which artsy temptress Missy (Zinser plays trouble with a capital T) initiates a game that is, in the parlance of our times, "truth or dare -- but amped."

The drunken, druggy party offers plenty of vectors of sexual and romantic desire, not to mention friction between the newly famous athlete and the bookish Mike, who swoons over an idealized memory of Missy but is stuck videotaping her present misbehavior. (Equally innocent Katie, played by Sara Paxton, would love to mend his broken heart.) Instead of building these conflicts over the course of the evening, though, Brightly uses competing flashbacks that make it hard to invest in the emotions of characters that are thinly drawn to begin with. Sifting through the self-absorbed narratives before her, Evans looks less like an investigator than a mother who can't figure out how she ended up with such insubstantial children.

Production Company: Indie Entertainment

Cast: Matt Lanter, Sara Paxton, Darin Brooks, Randy Wayne, Alice Evans, Gillian Zinser, Torrance Coombs

Director-Screenwriter: Brian Brightly

Producers: Jeffrey Allard, Joey Carey, Stefan Nowicki, Alex Sagalchik

Executive producers: Ross M. Dinerstein, Kevin Iwashina

Director of photography: Paul Sadourian

Production designer: Laura Weinberger

Costume Designer: Lauren Fajardo

Music: Stephen Light

Editor: Suzanne Spangler

R, 91 minutes