Like many others in Los Angeles, Josh is an unpaid intern desperately trying to make it. When his boss has him go pick up a highly valuable necklace, he figures he’ll save some time and picks it up early. While the necklace is in his possession, his housemates through a party that quickly turns to a home invasion. Co-written by Jamie Marshall and Matthew L. Schaffer with Marshall also directing, the film builds a home invasion/heist story with double crosses and not one clear cut innocent character.
The characters created here are all either flawed or flat out bad people. They show the toll of the industry and its insane demands on people as most of the characters are creative people trying to make it and being exhausted by their situation. The home invasion/heist serves as a catalyst for them to just let go and fully show their flaws as well as their strengths even though these may not be used in the best of ways. The way the characters evolve is fairly organic given their situations and what happens to them. The director also being one of the co-writers allows him to be closer to and more involved in the story and how it’s built. The double crosses and twists created in the script are well executed on screen and they work.
To bring this character-driven film to life and have the characters work, the cast had to be talented and work well together. In the lead of Josh, Mark L. Young shows a young man with a lot of stress trying to survive and make his way in the film industry. As the lead, his character has the most development and goes through the most. His interpretation shows that he can bring human characters, flaws and all, to the screen and make them believable. He may have a couple of moments that feel a little off but they are very few, thus easily forgiven. Also doing quite good to very good are Scout Taylor-Compton, Beau Knapp, and Lili Simmons as the roommates: a recording artist, a painter, and an actress respectively.
Taylor-Compton shows the most nuances while Knapp brings a strong douchebag vibe to his part, and Simmons brings her talent to her character and in her character’s acting as another character not as much which was an interesting dichotomy to watch. Last but not least, Keith David as Doc has one hell of a screen presence, stealing all the scenes he’s in. The man is a force to reckon with. The film is shot in big part in one house which is a beautiful location and looks perfect for the creative group living there. The cinematography by Laura Merians frames this house beautifully and uses it to its maximum potential.
Also, the way the driving is shot, partially in the car’s point of view which is rather Besson-esque and very visually appealing. Dirty Lies is an entertaining home invasion/heist film with a cast of creative characters doing all they can to survive. The double crosses work and the ending is satisfying. It’s well acted and well show in beautiful locations. It’s all about trying to do the right thing your whole life and in an instant, you can ruin it all. Or change it all.