Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The Liability has two things going for it: the acting chops of two excellent British actors, Tim Roth (Lie To Me) and Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur). Tim Roth is about as cool as it’s possible to be and still retain an English accent. Mullan, on the other hand, is renowned for playing (and playing very well) characters that are palpably nasty and as dangerous as a bagful of aggressively swung monkey wrenches. As a point of order, it would have been nice to see a bit more of him here.
Directed by Craig Viveiros and written by John Wrathall, this under the radar, modestly budgeted drama about not really very much impresses more than expected. As stated above, however, this is largely due to the charismatic performances of most of the cast rather than some fine scripting or a subtle plot. With a story centering around the exploits of Roy (Roth) and the criminally underused Mullan’s stepson Adam (in a very likeable turn from Jack O’Connell), we get a not altogether realistic vision of some very seedy underworld goings-on.
Taken on as a driver (incredulously) for Roy as payment for smashing up his stepfather’s car, Adam is introduced to an adventure he didn’t ask to attend and possibly on reflection, want to be a part of in the first place had he known. O’Connell is very playful with Adam’s character which comes off as part opportunist, part petty hoodlum who is put firmly in his place when the bigger boys come out to play.
Through misadventure and happenstance that occurs a little too frequently to be believable, Adam is taken on a rollercoaster ride of crimes and misdemeanours, putting him in contact with some very unpleasant individuals along the way, plus at least one apparently noble exception.
Despite its brief running time, however, the film often feels slow and laboured to the point that you are willing these sometimes likeable and often intriguing characters onwards with some sort of gusto. This never really happens and whilst this is an interesting diversion and an alternative to the cockney-wide-boy-east-end villains that Guy Ritchie would offer us, you cannot help but wish for a little more action in a project that is more about the mood than the deed or the word.
Roth’s performance of Roy is stoic throughout, a foil for Adam’s misguided and often unbridled enthusiasm to experience new things. When these things start to get a little too real for Adam, however, the light-hearted almost comedic mood of the vanishes and the audience is left feeling that whilst there was indeed handfuls of promise, it wanes too quickly for a lack of promised thrill for both Adam and those watching him.
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