Based on a short story by German writer Bernhard Schlink, who also created the novel on which last year's excellent "The Reader" was based, "The Other Man" stars an especially sober Liam Neeson as Peter, a successful computer software executive long married to Lisa (Laura Linney), a celebrated high-end shoe designer who disappears after startling her husband with some blunt comments about marital fidelity -- or her lack thereof.
"Do you really think people can stay together their whole life?"- Lisa's question permeates the film.
Thanks to the revealing contents of a laptop and cellphone that Lisa has curiously left behind, a distraught Peter discovers she's been having an affair and becomes obsessed with tracking down her lover. This takes Peter from his Cambridge, England, home to Milan, where he quickly meets and befriends said paramour, the dashing, seemingly well-off Ralph (Antonio Banderas, not fully up to the multi-task of playing a Spanish-Brit mix living in Italy).
Without divulging that he's Lisa's husband, Peter gets to know Ralph over numerous cafe chess games (what better -- or more tired -- metaphor for Peter's cat-and-mouse manipulations?) and things unravel from there, though not in the way one might immediately expect.
Banderas makes the crucial mistake of playing Ralph like Christopher Walken's old "Saturday Night Live" character the Continental ("Come here, my wide-eyed, white-tailed doe"), which helps turn the film into a parody. It wants to be a Harold Pinter play, becomes a Neil LaBute rip-off and winds up like a Barbara Cartland romance novel.
Neeson now seems an ill fit for movies like this, and not simply because of his real-life tragedies. He used to employ his physical bullishness to storm through dramas, owning the room. Now older and thinner, his intensity, oddly, seems better matched for actioners like "Taken."
Banderas faces a tougher task, needing to cut two different figures as the plot thickens, and both become comical despite his best efforts. Yet Linney — luminescent as always — is a beguiling center of this triangle. She, too, is forced into some ludicrousness, yet we want to follow her. The same can't be said of "The Other Man."
In general, it's a decent adult drama that should keep you guessing, according to Los Angeles Times' review.
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