Apparently it takes a Canadian to remind Americans how film noir is supposed to be done. Robert Rodriguez's Sin City was a shadow away from noir farce with its graphic violence and absurd dialogue. Now comes along Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies, a suspenseful tale based on a novel by Rupert Holmes that nearly nails the genre with graphic sex and realistic dialogue, dusted with near-universal corruption.
Bacon and Firth are a Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin duo in the '50s, playing mob-owned nightclubs to legions of fans, including the sort eager to visit the pair in their post-performance hotel suites. On the eve of their first polio telethon, a naked blonde is found in their bathtub upon their arrival, and once their 39-hour program is over, so is their partnership though the crime remains unsolved.
Fifteen years later, rising-star reporter Karen O'Connor (Lohman) is the key player in a $1 million biography deal on Vince Collins (Firth). It turns out that O'Connor was one of the telethon's stars, a little girl cured of polio who reads a thank-you letter on air while a tearful Lanny Morris (Bacon) watches, doubtless the reason she was chosen for the job. But the lucrative contract depends on Collins coming clean on how the dead blonde, a room-service waitress from Miami, wound up in Atlantic City.
Over the course of a taut 107 minutes, the duplicity and secrets of everyone involved are bared like the layers of an onion. Thanks to Egoyan's direction and script, even the secrets which can be reasonably guessed are nonetheless shocking when revealed. Bacon plays the hedonistic Morris perfectly, letting us slowly see how the nice guy he started off as has been caged by the show-biz persona he created and gave in to in his youth. Now with their careers in twilight, he sees salvation in the star-struck O'Connor. Firth, playing proper Brit foil to Bacon's Mercutio, does an equally stupendous job: a pill-popping yet calming influence in the duo who is a nudge away from brutal violence or depraved sex. Lohman, as the third point in the triangle, truly embodies her ingenue reporter who discovers her childhood heroes are broken men from bearing the guilt of the blonde's murder.
Where the Truth Lies reminds us that movies for adults can be fun and mature.