The Liability

In Films by David Watson

A swaggering, immature waster and petty criminal, Adam (Jack O’Connell) is the titular ‘liability.’  After crashing his gangster stepfather Peter’s (Peter Mullan) car, Adam is forced to take on a little job to pay for the damage; driving the gruff, taciturn Roy (Tim Roth) on a no-questions-asked mission.

World-weary and efficient, Roy is a professional hit man on his last job.  His daughter’s getting married and he’s lost his taste for killing.  He’s looking forward to retirement but finds the chatty, enthusiastic Adam getting under his skin and, against his better judgement, agrees to show him the ropes.

The easy job becomes complicated however when a beautiful and mysterious woman (Talulah Riley) stumbles across their woodland disposal of their target, a Russian gangster, who they’re in the process of chopping up.  Roy doesn’t like leaving witnesses; the girl has got to go.  But when she escapes with a piece of incriminating evidence, Adam and Roy are forced into a deadly game of cat and mouse as the secrets behind Roy’s last job and Adam’s involvement are revealed.

A tight, blackly comic, little Brit crime thriller with two fantastic central performances from Tim Roth and Jack O’Connell, it’s almost inevitable that Craig Viveiros’ second feature film, The Liability, will be compared to Stephen Frears’ 1984 thriller The Hit in which jaded assassin John Hurt initiated eager young novice Tim Roth in the killing game.  This time round however Roth is the seasoned veteran mentoring the eager young O’Connell and while their partnership is just as deadly, it’s shot through with a dark, witty affection for it’s odd couple pairing that Frears’ po-faced The Hit never managed.

While the script by John Wrathall holds few surprises, director Viveiros wisely eschews the temptations of Mockernee gangster movies and instead concentrates on the budding relationship between Roth and O’Connell’s mismatched pair.  Roth is as reliably great as ever as the quiet, laconic, business-like hitman Roy while O’Connell is wonderful as the mercurial, irritating Adam.  Always the best thing in whatever he’s in, O’Connell has charisma to burn and makes the brash, cocky chav Adam a likable, vulnerable protagonist.  There’s a genuine warmth and humour to his relationship with Roth, their scenes together really sing, and they’re ably supported by Talulah Riley on smouldering, vampish form as the not entirely innocent witness and the monstrous Peter Mullan as possibly the vilest stepfather you’ve seen outside of a Grimm fairytale.

A fun, violent, freewheeling road/buddy/hit man hybrid movie, The Liability is a quirky, cheerfully amoral antidote to the dodgy geezers having it large and playing Charlie Big Potatoes in your average sub-par Guy Ritchie or Nick Love knock-off.