Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Liability (2012, Craig Viveiros)

Viewers may know exactly where The Liability plans on taking them, but luckily with a brisk pace, and a fine cast that's clearly enjoying the ride, this dark and often humorous coming of age tale flourishes enough to make it a fighting, worthy thriller.

Reckless 19 year old Adam (Jack O'Connell) manages to get himself closer to his powerful stepfather's sordid line of work than he bargained for. A mistake that begins with a written off car, leading to a journey facing a retiring hit man, sex trafficking, and a mysterious latvian woman (Talulah Riley). As the tension mounts and his life is shaken to its foundations Adam is forced to confront the stark and unforgiving world head on and in the process is born again, or at least becomes a responsible and weary adult.

Peter Mullan is an actor perhaps unsurpassed in expressing vile bouts of sudden rage, an intimidating screen presence if there ever was one. As Adam's stepdad Mullan turns in a singularly one geared performance which loses any nuance shown in his equally violent trademark My Name Is Joe, or Tyrannosaur. His character may as well have "bad guy" written on his forehead but in the context of this nifty narrative certainly he gets the job done. 

As the stand-in patriarch gets bolshy Adam out of the way by sending him out on the road with a colleague to 'fix kitchens', this meeting with the laconic and strictly professional Roy starts events rolling. It's soon established that Roy (Tim Roth) doesn't fix kitchens and is in fact a hit man on the verge of retiring; what transpires is an archetypal mismatched buddy movie as the two grate each others nerves, their camaraderie marking an entertaining pulse to the film, hitting touching notes even among the murky and absurd settings.

Roth is unsurprisingly magnetic here, drawing intrigue from such an opaque character as Roy. Craig Viveiros' direction is for the most part slickly applied with a few key standout shots that manage to heighten yet another gritty Brit-flic; most noticeably of Roy looking out to sea from a cliff with his world worn outlook effortlessly conveyed by Roth's jaded eyes. Showdowns in a forrest during the aftermath of a butchering as well as in a roadside diner and factory are also handled with stylish gusto that move the action on intensely without stalling. At certain points Viveiros can't help but pull out on-the-nose references to his leading man of Roth, a figure he's undoubtably enamoured by here. There's the iconic 'trunk-shot' from early Tarantino, and a slow-motion gun execution from behind that recalls Roth's turn in James Gray's Little Odessa.

Roy's subtle penchant for Cuban culture perhaps alludes to his ageing dulled nature that all his line of work is in the end meaningless, whereas at least the bloodshed of that county's revolution stood for something. While injured, Roy hallucinates that Cuban guerrilla fighters are sitting behind him. Of course maybe this is just delving in too deep, after all, under the veil of this crime thriller lies a core tackling of step parent/child conflict, domestic abuse, oppressive father figures, and an attack on the bourgeoisie. All half-baked elements of a film that never lets its pathos fully take off.

All-in-all The Liability plays into your hands easily due to the many sign posted narrative junctures and characters throughout. Though it may be a predictable experience it is none the less an entertaining one largely thanks Roth and O'Connell's banter and a wonderfully picked vivid soundtrack.

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