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A Genine British Eccentric
on February 12, 2013
Used to be you could discover a movie for yourself. Roll home late, switch on the TV, next thing you know you're glued to the sofa long past bedtime. Or maybe you were hypnotized by the second movie in the double bill at a long-dead indie rep. Left the theatre banging on about it to all your friends. Not any more. Thanks Internet.
So when a movie comes along that looks like one thing, turns out to be something else, and draws you in so completely you feel you're in the middle of an actual discovery all of your own, enjoy it. All that earnest amateur analysis you skimmed online beforehand, the radioactive comparisons with other flicks, the petulant certainties about genre shortcomings, pay none of it any heed. Instead, hand yourself over to the people with the actual talent. Go where the writer and the film makers take you.
The Liability is a movie worth discovering for yourself. The poster of a geezer with a shooter gives a broad hint of what to expect and there is a full identity parade of crime flick archetypes: the middle-aged killer who wants to pack it in, the naïve kid who thinks he fancies the life, a properly evil crime boss, a put-upon moll, even an exotic beauty with razor blade cheek bones. But these characters exist only to service a weird and sinewy plot in an unhinged, off-kilter reality in a parallel England of no policemen, deep dark woods and American diners. Nothing proceeds as it should.
Tim Roth, distantly echoing his young gun in Stephen Frears's 1985 movie The Hit, thoroughly enjoys himself as the professional holding it together with mystified cool as chaos randomly explodes around him. Jack O'Connell was born to play the eager-to-please would-be gangster who not only has to be smarter than he looks, actually might be. Tallulah Riley (who knew?), takes a very modern femme fatale and makes her all her own. Peter Mullen cranks his scary man act to new levels of terror, and as his broken down moll, Kiersten Wareing creates miracles with barely any screen time at all, revealing lifetimes of grief through the tiniest flicker of her densely mascara'd eyes.
Working from John Wrathall's sharp and hilarious script, director Craig Viveiros and DP James Friend have manufactured a series of iconic visual moments that endlessly defy what must have been a traditionally tiny British movie budget. This film is worth checking out if only to see how to make the most of one of those American-style OK Diners that dot the A roads around the UK.
A movie that keeps you guessing with a grin on your face even when you know it's leading you up a blind alley, The Liabilty is
dense with crime cinema lore but no less enjoyable if you've never seen a hit man movie in your life. It's a genuine British eccentric there to be discovered on its own terms.