Talking Movies: The Good Liar, The Irishman and The Tribe

Spling reviews The Good Liar, The Irishman and The Tribe as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a cat-and-mouse thriller, a gangster epic and a local arthouse drama.

Starting off with a film now on circuit…


Consummate con man Roy Courtnay has set his sights on his latest mark: a recently widowed woman worth millions.

Director: Bill Condon

Stars: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen and Russell Tovey

– The biggest selling point for this cat-and-mouse thriller is the matchup between McKellen and Mirren, two of the most celebrated and respected actors of our time.
– while he is best known for playing Gandalf and Magneto, McKellen is always a class act as he is in The Good Liar re-teaming with Condon after Gods and Monsters and Mr. Holmes
– playing a conman, switching from trickster to old man with a gamy leg, he makes it seem effortless
– while it is more McKellen’s show, Mirren delivers, slowly turning up the heat as new information comes to light
– cleverly hinting at outcomes along the way, the story remains elusive and difficult to pin down, playing some of the actor’s previous roles against us
– while Condon manages to keep the lid on this potboiler, it does threaten to spill over at several interchanges
– while verging on becoming convoluted and even incredulous, this yarn of a thriller is always entertaining, spurred on by the class and star power of two well-matched acting talents
– the credits may roll with you poking holes in some of the plot points but like any paperback page turner it’s more about the escapism, twists and turns than aiming for complete coherence
– a fine production, a curious proposition and a refreshing pairing make for classy and high value entertainment, even if it calls for a bit of spit and polish

A satisfactory 6!

Moving on to a documentary now streaming on Netflix…


A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci

– Scorsese is a legendary filmmaker who has built his Hollywood career on the back of gangster movies like Mean Streets and Goodfellas
– while the director has dabbled in many genres, crime drama seems to be his forte, for which he won a long-awaited Oscar with The Departed
– often pairing with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, after a number of successful outings, the Irishman is an unofficial Goodfellas reunion with De Niro and Pesci
– getting Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino on board for the first time, makes the star-studded gangster film almost a who’s who of Hollywood gangster luminaries
– spanning across several decades, we get an epic account from Jimmy Hoffa’s right hand man, Frank Sheeran… his biographical story is alarming even if ironically quite frank
– at 3 1/2 hours, this is one of Scorsese’s longest films and releasing it directly to Netflix, you imagine them may have considered turning into a 4-part miniseries
– operating with a docudrama edge, it’s not quite as opulent as its predecessors, but is more subtle and humourous
– yet, The Irishman is about performance, allowing these legends a chance to play off each other in a strong genre film
– De Niro is just superb with his no-nonsense approach – even with blue eyes, Pacino is fiery and intense as Hoffa and Pesci is distinguished, pensive and almost unrecognisable
– through technology they’re able to represent De Niro’s performance across the ages, and while the mannerisms and movements may sometimes give his age away, it’s a remarkable feat
– seamlessly relaying moments from his career as a hitman and arsonist, the performances are compelling and everything has been lovingly crafted to match the time

An excellent 8 on the splingometer

And finally a local film now on Showmax…


When an assistant professor’s wife leaves him, his life spirals into a world of debauchery, with only the hope of an old friend to save him from ruin.

Writer-Director: Charlie Vundla

Stars: Charlie Vundla, Terry Pheto and Louis Roux

– Vundla is a handsome actor and a lover of cinema, who attempts to carve a thoughtful low budget local drama as writer, director and star
– while a noble effort, exploring a man’s depression and self-esteem issues following a failed marriage, it’s essentially a pity party with bad habits
– failing to win our empathy and becoming increasingly self-indulgent, this arthouse drama struggles with charm and identification
– watching from the outside in, it’s difficult to connect with the characters, who already have some distance
– toying with a bromance, there are moments when The Tribe comes alive, but being slow-moving it’s a bit of a chore
– the day-in-the-life of Johannesburg’s suburbs brings it home, but it’s mostly artful mood-setting without much substance
– hedonistic healing aside, things do become more interesting when it comes to altercations, but the experimental undertone numbs any sense of real danger
– it’s an interesting exercise in character-building, but unfortunately doesn’t snowball, remaining visually appealing yet superficial

A flat 5! on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

THE GOOD LIAR… strong co-lead performances guide this classy, entertaining albeit convoluted cat-and-mouse thriller… A satisfactory 6!

THE IRISHMAN… Hollywood legends show they’ve still got it in this pensive, lovingly-crafted and classic biographical gangster epic… An excellent 8!

THE TRIBE… while thoughtful and visually-enticing, this low budget drama is lightweight, distant and slow-moving… A flat 5!

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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!