Review: The Liability (2012)

Tim Roth returns in The Liability, a darkly comedic hit man road movie with a superb cast; laden with excitement but lacking in originality

The Liability is a low-budget hit man road movie set in north-east England. Don’t let that put you off though; it has a stellar cast including a rare cinematic appearance from Tim Roth, and Mother Superior himself, Peter Mullan.

The film is based around scary bad guy Peter (Peter Mullan) who, having had enough of his girlfriend’s (Kierston Wareing) lazy teenage son, Adam, (Jack O’Connell) enlists him as a driver for Cuban aficionado and seasoned hit man, Roy (Tim Roth). Coincidentally, Roy is on his last job before retirement and just wants to finish the job so he can see his daughter get married. As the day unfolds, Roy reluctantly becomes a hit man mentor to Adam but a seemingly straightforward job descends into farce thanks to the clumsy efforts of Roth’s new apprentice and a witness (Talulah Riley) who happens to be passing through while they are ‘cleaning up’.

The Liability is not exactly an original story – it’s a kind of paint-by-numbers hit man movie, from the Guy Ritchie school of direction, with a few twists thrown in for good measure. What keeps The Liability interesting is the chemistry between the two main characters which, despite a few plot holes, is believable, and the source of much of the film’s humour and drama. But while Roth and O’Connell really carry the film, Peter Mullan and Talulah Riley have disappointingly limited roles, perhaps because of the constraints of a low-budget – Riley does not even have the privilege of a name.

The film begins as a typical British dark-comedy with witty dialogue, in a similar vein as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and In Bruges.  Part way through, however, the comedy gives way to over-Americanised styling in what feels like a Tarantino homage, complete with hipster soundtrack. This is coupled by an increasingly unbelievable narrative, in which Roth points his gun at just about everyone he sees, and embarks on a cross country car chase in a stolen camper van without attracting even a single police siren. The level of suspension of belief is probably more at home in a high budget, high octane Hollywood action film than a quirky British thriller; even so, a fast-paced plot and some unexpected twists keep the momentum going and prevent the film from dragging.

The Liability’s main drawback is its over-stylisation; it just seems to be trying a little too hard to be a British Tarantino movie. Having said that, it’s still worth a watch; although it may be far from original or ground-breaking, The Liability is a fun film with a superb cast and a gripping narrative.

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