The Liability Review

The Liability

If the term “Brit-gangster movie” makes you cringe in fear of knock-off Guy Ritchie monologues or gratuitous Danny Dyer cameos, then perhaps the presence of Tim Roth and Peter Mullan will entice you into viewing Craig Viveiros’ latest offering.

The Liability shifts focus from the prison-based confines of Viveiros’ debut feature Ghosted to the wider open spaces of the English countryside, but it remains firmly rooted in the criminal underworld.

Proceedings kick off with some spontaneous violence involving a serial killer called the Handyman, which effectively sets the tone for the next ninety odd minutes.

We then zip to the high-speed introduction of our joyriding hero-in-a-hoodie, the Jack O’Connell shaped Adam, who promptly smashes up the car he has been driving.

The glitch is that the car’s owner, played by the mighty Peter Mullan, happens to be both Adam’s stepfather and a particularly ruthless gangster with a penchant for video nasties and human trafficking.

He naturally wants Adam to repay him, and he don’t mean with pocket money.

Adam goes on “a job” for his stepfather to make amends, acting as wheel man for Tim Roth’s jaded assassin, Roy. Roy longs for retirement, whereas Adam is keen to get his hands dirty and take advantage of this entry level position in the world of gainful criminal employment.

During their trip the pair encounters a beautiful girl played by Talulah Riley, who gives Sacha Baron Cohen a run for his money in the dodgy Eastern-European-accent stakes. As the story unfolds, it transpires that the goals of all three are somewhat entwined.

The Liability

There are further twists along the way, but without divulging too much, the rest of the film contains betrayals, revenge and some gratuitous clothes-shedding.

The plot is essentially the standard young-hood-repays-gangster storyline, mixed with a rookie / veteran buddy movie.

In short, this is nothing we haven’t really seen before.

Viveiros’ camera-based background saves the day however: the film looks great, and paints a bleak but visually accomplished picture of life oop north, with the wide open spaces of the English countryside proving a nice contrast to the usual claustrophobic, urban settings of the standard British crime-flick.

The film is also buoyed by strong performances from the sparse cast.

Jack O’Connell plays Adam as a slightly more affable variation on the sinister scally types he previously incarnated in Eden Lake and Harry Brown. He and Roth show strong chemistry, and it’s good to see the latter back on home turf. Riley is as mysterious and sexy as her role demands her to be.

Mullan’s gangster however seems at times to belong in another movie, turning too dark even for the blackly comic tone that Viveiros appears to be aiming for.

And the film is ultimately let down by a pretty ridiculous and sudden ending which feels like the ideas or budget, or both, simply ran out.

In short, Viveiros may be one to watch in the future, but The Liability is only worth a watch if the genre is your thing.

Conor Brennan

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May 2013
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