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The Liability Review: Grisly & Well-Acted Brit Flick Treads Water

16 Apr


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.

Have you seen The Liability? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Sound City Review: Dave Grohl’s Stellar Trip Down Memory Lane

11 Feb

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl is a drummer, guitarist, singer, and now, a filmmaker – is there anything the guy can’t do? Apparently not, if his documentary about one of the music landscape’s most iconic fountains of creativity, one of the best-received films out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is any indication.

A love letter to Grohl’s old stomping ground, the titular California-based recording studio which gave birth to Nirvana’s seminal album Nevermind, Sound City is an intimate examination of both the ridiculous number of artists it allowed to flourish – Metallica, Neil Young, Trent Reznor, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Fleetwood Mac, Barry Manilow and countless others – and also the less-famous but equally important faces behind the studio glass; the studio managers, technicians and producers who were instrumental in getting so many popular works made. Leaving no stone unturned, Grohl manages to comprehensively convey how Sound City helped to not only form careers, but in some cases, friendships, relationships, and lives.

But what makes the studio – which even its rock star patrons will admit is a dilapidated shell of a building – such fertile ground for breeding iconic, unforgettable music? Grohl lovingly details through engrossing anecdotes the various quirks and attributes which made the location a one-of-a-kind place to make music; the spectacular recording console, the miraculously brilliant acoustics, the bands who formed as a result (Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac after a fortuitous meeting there), and the charm of the place that turned even its ardent cynics around.

Grohl ties all this exceptionally well into a depiction of the gritty creative process of constructing a song from the ground up, providing nuanced technical insights that nevertheless won’t end up losing the less musically astute viewers.

Throughout its lifetime, Sound City was a steadfast relic, even as digital recording gained traction in the 1980s, with analogue tape recording largely being traded up for electronic drum machines and the one-click studio set-ups of today. As one can expect, Grohl lines up a litany of purists who remain averse to the change, and seem intimidated or offended by the prospect of anyone being able to create music on a laptop – those who have seen Christopher Kenneally’s excellent film documentary Side By Side will find themselves struck by a sense of deja vu indeed. Still, Grohl is sensible enough to give digital its due, noting Trent Reznor as one of its most able and inspiring propponents, while also remaking unfortunate culture of auto-tuned, production line digital music that it has invited.

The implications for Sound City, inevitably, were that it couldn’t compete with the digital studio system – despite a brief resurgence with Nirvana in the early 90s, and bands such as Rage Against the Machine, The Pixies and Queens of the Stone Age recording at the studio as a result – but the film is far from a dirge, rather a celebration of the studio’s influence and how it is able to in a sense live on spiritually if not in its original form.

Given how much Grohl figures in the film himself – a necessity given the personal nature of the project – it’s impressive how genuine and vanity-free he appears here; there’s not even a whiff of self-involvement in the project, which seems somewhat in line with the artist’s stature as the so-called “nicest guy in rock”. Proving serious chops as a filmmaker, he has crafted an authoritative, beautifully assembled, personal, even romantic account of one of rock music’s most important waypoints, a film which aficionados absolutely should not miss.

Sound City is on limited theatrical release in the US, and is available to purchase digitally on the official website.

The post Sound City Review: Dave Grohl’s Stellar Trip Down Memory Lane appeared first on WhatCulture!.

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