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Con man Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) sets his sights on wealthy widow Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren), approaching her through an online dating service for seniors and determining to retire from his life of crime once he strips her of every last penny. Her grandson, Stephen (Russell Tovey) is suspicious, of course, but Roy is both a charmer and a practiced deceiver, and it looks like his plan is going to come off without a hitch. Of course, that would be boring, and there’s more going on than meets the eye.
Reteaming with McKellan for the fourth time, director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Beauty and the Beast) brings Nicholas Searle’s novel to the screen with considerable polish and arch humour, with no small amount of real darkness colouring what could have been a fairly rote cosy thriller. McKellen is having too much fun as Roy, a dapper old gent with a heart of ice and a malignant streak a mile wide, clearly relishing the scenes where he gets to drop the charade and show us the real monster lurking inside the gentile old timer. Mirren has the less showy but more complex role, but explaining why and how would ruin a lot of the fun – and this is a fun one. Come for two acting treasures getting to sink their teeth into something delicious; stay for McKellen shoving a mark in front of a tube train and teaching an unruly underling some manners with a meat tenderiser.