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Year: 2001
Director: Michael Cuesta
Stars: Brian Cox, Paul Franklin Dano, Billy Kay, Bruce Altman, Walter Masterson
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Debut features can be a daunting prospect for even the most confident rookie director, but some raise the bar even higher by choosing highly controversial subject matter. In L.I.E., paedophilia raises its festering head, with a potentially disturbing overview of the relationship between Long Island pervert John Harrigan (Cox) and 15 year old Howie Blitzer (Dano). Following the death of his mother, Howie becomes involved with a trio of school pals who bunk classes and break into local houses, looking for cash and anything with a market value. When the gang raid Harrigan's house, emerging with a pair of antique pistols, 'Big John' is soon on their trail, eventually confronting Howie and blackmailing him into retreiving the stolen weapons from best friend Gary (Kay), who performs sexual favours in return for Harrigan's bucks. Using a one-parent sidebar - where Howie's building contractor father finds his attention divided between the new woman in his life and a negligence suit filed against his firm - the script (a collaboration between Cuesta, his brother Gerald and Stephen M. Ryder) drives Howie into the arms of Harrigan; a situation which enrages Scott (Masterson), 'Big John's' loyal and possessive 'housekeeper'.

While Cuesta deserves our admiration for attempting to tackle such an emotive, highly-charged subject, he's clearly done himself no favours and given himself little room for maneouvre. Certainly, one gets the feeling that Harrigan's character in particular was stifled by a screenplay which fails to uncover the real J.H. and confirm he does indeed have friends in high places who turn a blind eye to his activities. Similarly, it's never made entirely clear if Howie does have a preference for the male gender or merely regards John as the only person he can turn to. For all that, L.I.E. does contain some powerful scenes: Harrigan cruising the streets( to the tune of Donovan's 'Hurdy Gurdy Man') at the wheel of a car boasting a most unusual numberplate; head-and-shoulder computer images of Harrigan's victims and a scene involving Harrigan, Howie and a razor that tips its cap to Stanley Kubrik's Lolita.

Thanks to a superb performance from Cox - by turn, manipulative, evil and compassionate - L.I.E. has enough in its tank to hold attention right up to a finale that's remarkably similar in theme and content to the shocking end from a certain Abel Ferrara movie. Not, then, the film it could have been, but maybe on this occasion we can be excused at our relief in seeing the ball go sailing past the post.
Reviewer: Steve Langton


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