The Liability (3 stars)

The Liability

Tim Roth and Jack O'Connell pair up for a seemingly familiar hitman film

You may get struck by déjà vu watching The Liability, the third feature film by former cinematographer Craig Viveiros. A story of a taciturn hitman and his callow assistant starring Tim Roth, it sounds suspiciously like a remake of Stephen Frears’ 1984 film The Hit, were it not for the fact that Frears’ film took place on the Costa Del Crime and this in the slightly less glamorous confines of Northumbria.

Jack O’Connell plays the liability of the title – a 19 year-old wastrel called Adam whose mother Nicky (Kierston Wareing, in a nothing role) is together with a nouveau riche gangster (Peter Mullan) and who has taken an instant dislike to her lazy offspring. In an attempt to get him out of the house, he sets Adam up with a job – driving a business associate named Roy (Roth) on an unspecified gig.

Unwilling to listen to Adam’s aimless chatter, or even hear him speak his name, Roy is heading for one final hit (aren’t they all?) before his daughter’s wedding. Inevitably, Adam gets under his skin, wanting to learn the tricks of his deadly trade. Here, between Roth and O’Connell, there is an amusing chemistry – though the script lacks the sheer aggression of Sexy Beast or foul-mouthed word play of In Bruges, two other fine examples in this arena, to be ranked alongside either.

With the arrival of Talulah Riley as a vengeful Latvian that the boys stumble upon in the woods, The Liability takes a left-turn into the murky world of sex trafficking, though its little more than a plot device in a final act that aims its crosshairs at a predictable conclusion. While Roth is always watchable, it’s a pity the script couldn’t find a way to pair him with Mullan (who is on marvellously vile form). Now that would’ve been a film worth watching.

The Liability

The Liability

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • UK
  • 1h 22min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Craig Vivieiros
  • Written by: John Wrathall
  • Cast: Tim Roth, Peter Mullan, Jack O'Connell
  • UK release: 17 May 2013

Adam (O'Connell) is a young wastrel who finds himself driving taciturn hitman Roy (Roth) to his last job. It's suspiciously similar to 1984's The Hit, in which it was Roth's turn to be callow assistant; and while he and O'Connell are amusing, the script needs more aggression, surprise and fun.