Review: The Liability (15)

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A taciturn, desensitised hitman is briefly partnered with a garrulous, teenage companion. What could possibly go wrong?

That just about sums up The Liability in which Jack O’Connell is sent by his violent stepfather (Peter Mullan) to drive for Tim Roth, an assassin with a briefcase full of files of the people he has to kill.

The hit goes awry though the victim is knocked off. But a passing witness manages to escape with the duo’s getaway car and a bag of gruesome evidence. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse chase across northern England that inevitably will lead reluctant mentor and giggling protégé back to the beginning of their relationship.

Writer John Wrathall and director Craig Viveiros pepper their film with all manner of subtexts and subplots. In that respect it should be much more effective than it actually is. There are moments within The Liability when it hints at being a much better picture than it is. Sadly Roth’s deliberate underplaying and O’Connell’s hopped-up performance neither balance one another nor set the teeth on edge. It is left to Peter Mullan’s monstrous gangster to bring any sense of real dread to the proceedings. But then he can play sinister with his eyes shut. In the end it’s all rather too little, too late.

On staggered release