The Liability
dir Craig Viveiros
scr John Wrathall
prd Rupert Jermyn, Richard Johns
with Jack O'Connell, Tim Roth, Talulah Riley, Peter Mullan, Kierston Wareing, Jack McBride, Jenny Pike, Tomi May, Christopher Hatherall, John Raine, Alexander Lomas, Steven Stobbs
release US 29.Jan.13, UK 17.May.13
12/UK 1h22
The Liability
Staring at the sea: O'Connell and Roth

riley mullan wareing
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Liability There's an intriguing mixture of black comedy and real tension in this offbeat crime thriller. The plot is relatively simplistic and ultimately rather pointless, but a superior cast and strong characters make the movie a lot more engaging than we expect.

At 19, Adam (O'Connell) is an irresponsible chucklehead who thinks it's pretty hilarious when he wrecks his mobster stepdad Peter's (Mullan) fancy car. To pay for the damage, he takes a job as a driver for Peter's friend Roy (Roth), who turns out to be a hitman. This introduces Adam into a nasty world of kidnapping and murder. And on his first day out he gets into an especially tense situation with a backpacker (Riley) who's a lot savvier than expected and engages he and Roy in a tricky cat-and-mouse game.

With blackly humorous writing and direction, the film holds our interest by refusing to hint at where it's headed. Adam is a cheeky idiot who simply has no idea how to behave in any situation, and it's a credit to O'Connell that he makes the character likeable. This is partly because Roy is such a surly brute that we actually worry about Adam being in his company. Roth can play this kind of character in his sleep, but manages to inject some subtle spark and pathos into his scenes.

The brittle chemistry between O'Connell and Roth never quite settles into something that feels safe. Adam's smiley naivete is always at odds with Roy's exhausted resignation. So as the story takes a couple of grim turns, we're never quite sure what will happen next. But we know Roy is quietly in control, even as his careful plan keeps being derailed. So it's not really a surprise when when we finally discover what's actually going on.

As the plot begins to come into focus, the film takes on the form of a bleak, deranged coming-of-age odyssey. Writer Wrathall and director Viveiros continually play around with the story, veering off into unexpected directions that are both amusing and rather nightmarish. Visually the film has a fairly straightforward style that nicely undermines the edgy and slightly wacky tone. So by the time it gets to the somewhat overwrought conclusion, we're already hooked.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.May.13

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