The secret behind any courtroom drama or crime thriller is in hiding your secrets. The more you can draw audiences into figuring out the truth behind the real killers in a way that leaves them in disbelief of it all while making the clues too obvious or hidden is certainly an art form. Few films can get this right and most films these days almost go to ridiculous measures to pull wool over audience’s eyes in almost implausible ways. What’s interesting about the approach in this new film The Whole Truth is that it doesn’t even try. While the premise of the movie lies around hiding the truth, it reveals its secrets to the audience without leaving them to even needing to figure out and what it does keep secret is far too contrived to be plausible.
The Whole Truth is sort of a cross-between court drama and crime noir film, which sees lawyer Richard Ramsey (Keanu Reeves) in a situation where he has been hired by Loretta Lassiter (Renee Zellweger) to defend her son, Mike Lassiter (Gabriel Basso) who killed his father and her husband (Jim Belushi). The only problem is the son refuses to speak to him and so he has no idea how to defend him in court and has to learn about select details of the court case as they’re presented. It’s a silly premise if you actually know how court cases work. The film starts off by putting you at the start of the court case, with Reeves’ character providing much of the backstory through a noir-style narration. As you learn more about the story through the court-case, it starts to fill in the blanks along the way.
Reeves is joined by Janelle Brady (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) an expert character witness whose main purpose is to identify when witnesses are telling lies to try to build a case around these supposed lies and for him to dig deeper. The problem with the approach is that as witnesses give their testimony, the truth is revealed to us through flashback scenes which take away much of the suspicion around where the truth lies. To the film’s credit, there are a few elements of the story which are hidden around the actual murder, but when these are revealed it sadly blows most of the premise of the movie wide open leaving no real reason or motivation for it.
The Whole Truth is not a horrendous movie, just an inconsistent one that perhaps took the wrong approach to its story-telling through Nicholas Kazan’s script. It’s not just that it reveals too much early on and fails to build enough interest in some of its characters. The only character you really get to know a bit about is that of Belushi’s Boone Lassiter and he’s already dead at the start of the movie. Courtney Hunt’s direction also fails to build any tension through most of the movie and leaves too many pieces lying around that don’t quite tie up. You never find yourself on the end of your seat and by the time some final reveals are made, what’s not already seen coming doesn’t add up under closer scrutiny.
It’s not just the script that’s a little lacklustre, Reeves seems almost bored through most of the movie and you never get any sense of urgency from his character. While the likes of Jim Belushi and Renee Zellweger provide more enterprising performances, it’s not enough to draw you into caring about their characters. Similarly, the score by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine reflects much of this dullness by rarely getting your pulse going.
The Whole Truth was actually released in July of last year in the US and only made its way to our shores this month over a full year later. This sentence alone is perhaps the biggest indication of the disappointment it is. Despite what would be considered a top-notch cast, there is just not enough that makes this movie work. It failed to gain traction in the US and is unlikely to gain traction here. In the end, The Whole Truth about this movie is that it’s not actually any good.
Last Updated: November 1, 2017