The British thriller has had something of a rough time over the last fifteen years. For every Sexy Beast or Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels is every film starring Danny Dyer. The Liability edges towards the former, delivering tension and some blackly comic laughs along the way.
Tim Roth stars as Roy, an aging hitman working for Peter Mullan’s crime boss. He takes Mullan’s 19 year old stepson Adam (Jack O’Connell) under his wing as he prepares to go on “one last hit”. Things take a turn for the worse when the hit goes wrong and a mysterious girl (Talulah Riley) goes on the run with key evidence. Over the course of 24 hours both Adam and Jack learn important lessons as events spiral out of their control.
Tim Roth is the anchor for The Liability. He delivers the kind of performance that you’d expect from a pro and in lesser hands Craig Viveiros’ film could come across as rather flaccid. Roth has a weariness which makes the dark humour work, delivering the darkly comic one-liners with controlled deadpan glee. Jack O’Connell is also effective as Adam, the stereotypical ASBO-youth which Mullan’s wealthy criminal has let into his home. Mullan does what you would expect Mullan to do, giving a traditionally ferocious performance.
Much like Sightseers, The Liability is yet another pitch black killer comedy. It may not achieve that film’s critical acclaim, but it is a worthy watch. John Wrathall’s script has some decent turns and it plays enough with convention to make the film stand out. It’s a shame that the final climax seems rushed and abrupt; the film could have done with another ten or fifteen minutes added to the last reel to let the ending breathe. These things matter.
The Liability is a British thriller that deserves to be seen. It has enough original elements and strong performances to make it rise above the plethora of other crime fare which is currently jockeying for attention on our screens.