Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s latest plays out like a very good Hollywood movie-which is to say, it’s not much of an Egoyan film at all.

Where the Truth Lies, a noir-ish thriller, is Egoyan lite. Where most of his films juggle multiple time periods and myriad plots and characters, Truth only takes place within two eras and encompasses one main story: Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon play Vince Collins and Lanny Morris-a 50s comedy duo who break up after a woman (Rachel Blanchard) is found dead in their hotel room. The film shifts between scenes in the 50s leading up to and following the fateful event, and scenes in the 70s that follow Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman), a writer determined to get to the bottom of the story.

Egoyan fans will be disappointed in the rather conventional pulp novel-style plot (replete with the sex and violence that got the film slapped with an NC-17 rating in the U.S.), which isn’t really fleshed out beyond a mere crime story.

However, the movie’s real redeeming feature is the acting, especially that of the three male leads.

Colin Firth plays Vince, the “straight man” in the duo, with a subdued intensity. While onstage, he is the cool-headed Brit, but backstage, we are witness to his various acts of depravity, including pill-popping and graphic acts of violence.

Kevin Bacon, on the other hand, plays comedian Lanny, the film’s requisite “nice guy.” But in this story, nothing is as it seems. Like his partner, Lanny also has a dark side, and it’s quite impressive to see Bacon morph from likeable into a creep as the film develops. Bacon has never really tackled a dramatic role this difficult before, but his work here suggests he should get more opportunities in the future.

Firth and Bacon are ably matched by Scottish film/TV actor David Hayman, who plays Lanny’s butler, Ruben, a definite oddball who surfaces occasionally throughout both time periods to help further the plot.

For Canadian film buffs, veteran actor Maury Chaykin plays Sally, a mob boss and general sleazebag. Other Canadians include Blanchard (who played the lead in the TV version of Clueless a while back), in a nice performance as the ill-fated woman, as well as two Egoyan regulars: Arsinée Khanjian (Egoyan’s wife) and Don McKellar (the hardest-working man in Canadian film). Both turn up in what amounts to cameos, but it’s always nice to see them at work.

Oddly enough, the film’s weakest point is its lead actress-the very young-looking Alison Lohman is not terrible in her role as the intrepid journalist, but she is no Sarah Polley (who carried Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter) or Elaine Cassidy (from his Felicia’s Journey), and there are some scenes where she is clearly out of her element. Also, it’s a shame the film requires her constant voiceover narration, which gets awfully tedious after a while.

The other issue with the movie is its unnecessary slickness. It’s regrettable that an indie filmmaker like Egoyan has to resort to the sort of overproduction we’ve come to expect from Tinseltown-Truth is saturated in glossy makeup and bright colours. Exotica, one of Egoyan’s most critically lauded films, takes place almost entirely at night in a dingy, gritty part of downtown Toronto. While it’s understandable that images of pastel 70s California work as a contrast to Truth’s dark theme, it still seems a bit overdone.

Overall, Where the Truth Lies is still a good movie. Egoyan is a master of his craft, even if he’s working with weaker material and imagery than his previous, better works. If you can ignore all the hyperbole over the film’s supposedly shocking ménage-à-trois (a crucial part of the story leading into the death of Blanchard’s character) and try to keep an open mind about where Egoyan’s headed at this stage of his career (a popcorn movie this is not, though the director is clearly aiming at a more mainstream audience), there’s some cinematic truth to be found in his Lies.