After a run-in with his nasty brute of a stepfather (Peter Mullan), 19-year-old Adam (Jack O’Connell) is sent to chauffeur a taciturn man called Roy (Tim Roth) up north. Adam doesn’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, but it soon becomes apparent Roy is a hitman who’s keen to give up the game. They’re heading to a rendezvous with a Latvian man who Roy has been hired to kill, while making it look like a local serial killer who’s been chopping off people’s hands did it.
Things get complicated when a woman (Talulah Riley) comes across them just after Roy has committed the dirty deed. She’s a loose end that could possibly see both of them in jail, and so protocol says she needs to be killed too. Things aren’t as simple as they seem though, as Adam may not have just been sent to chauffeur and the woman who witnesses what they’re up to may not be a random passer-by.
The Liability is an intriguing movie that doesn’t quite work. It attempts to balance various different genres and ideas but rather than pulling together into something entertaining and cohesive, they all feel a bit disparate and as if the film isn’t quite sure what it’s doing. One moment it’s incredibly dark and nasty, the next it’s essentially a slow indie art film. There are scenes of pitch black comedy (it’s a shame there aren’t more, as these are the most effective bits of the film) and others where it feels like it’s slipping into generic gangster territory. Sometimes films can balance multiple styles, but with The Liability they tend to work against one another.
Roth and O’Connell make a decent pair, which is a good job as fairly long stretches of the movie involve them driving around talking. However what they’re surrounded by is watchable but a little unbalanced. It doesn’t help that even though it’s only 82 minutes long, there are chunks that feel like they’re slow padding, not least the beginning. Peter Mullan is a great actor, but the 15 minutes where he’s running around being a nasty piece of work at the start feels laboured. We get everything we need to know in about five minutes, and then it’s just sitting around waiting for the film proper to start.
The Liability is certainly not all bad, but it’s not great either.
Overall Verdict: A brave attempt to make a dark Brit thriller that offers something different, but it’s different style and genres elements don’t come together. Tim Roth is good though.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac