Director: Craig Viveiros
Writer: John Wrathall
Starring: Tim Roth, Jack O’Connell, Peter Mullan, Talulah Riley
Synopsis: In order to pay the damage on his step-dad’s car, Adam (O’Connell) agrees to drive a mysterious gangster (Roth) around for 24 hours. During the day he’s privy to new, exciting, haunting, and tough experiences until they all dangerously collide.
British crime films are all-too-common since the success of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Many have gone in the opposite direction of the Guy Ritchie crime-caper and set a deeply dark tone as a trend. However, occasionally there are refreshing examples of macabre humour, nicely reminiscent of Ritchie’s 1998 classic. Whilst The Liability will not become a new favourite it contains an hour of decent action and witty dialogue. Sadly, it falls flat with a messy last half hour as it tries to stretch itself too far with genre-play.
Starting off as an ostensibly average crime comedy, The Liability moulds itself into a quaint buddy movie once Tim Roth enters into it. From his entrance until the introduction of Talulah Riley’s character, there is an excellent series of quips exchanged between Roth and Jack O’Connell. Roth’s Roy is steeped in mystery and remains as such through 99% of the film (a trait that needn’t be criticised) so having his opposite alongside of him – yapping away at every given moment, and querying the ins and outs of the profession – works wonders for the plot and character development.
Things take a sharp turn for the worst when a seemingly dormant plot line comes to the forefront of the story. It first involves Talulah Riley’s character stumbling upon Roy and Adam’s crime scene and finding herself with a key piece of evidence. It’s just after her getaway with the evidence that the film wanders into Americana (a diner with a neon-lit car park, a score pathetically similar to Drive, and milkshake and Ray Ban sunglasses iconography) and destroys the vibe so well-crafted up until now.
It gets no better, and despite some beautiful cinematography within these American-inspired scenes, it acquires an awkward ambience overall. One giant, in-your-face set piece may have seemed like a good idea on paper but it does no justice to the small, smart film it started off as. By the end it brings itself back to earth but the damage is already done, especially with a last shot that will make your eyes roll right back into your skull.
The prominent cast members – Tim Roth and Peter Mullan – continue to own their respective scenes but upcoming star Jack O’Connell does a brilliant job of stealing occasional moments from them. The 22 year-old actor, who rose to fame with Skins and Harry Brown, has no emotionally draining scenes in the film, but leaves a definite impression on it overall. If The Liability lacks tonal fluidity, it certainly reinforces the cast’s ability to lead and support in every sense.
Also posted on LiveForFilms