Craig Viveiros' The Liability (DVD Review)
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
The Liability (2013)
“Where in the world has Tim Roth been?” was the first thought that struck me upon starting his latest film, prompting an investigation into his cinematic whereabouts for the last few years. He had a small part in “Arbitrage,” a pretty good film, and dabbled in TV for a couple of years with “Lie to Me,” but hasn’t really done much else, making it a pleasure to see him pop up here in “The Liability.” It’s a direct-to-DVD release, which usually indicates that it’s not of the best quality, but if you actually give it a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Adam (Jack O’Connell) is a young man who lives with his mother, Nicky (Kierston Wareing), and her boyfriend, Peter (Peter Mullan), a man involved in some very shady business. One day, he crashes Peter’s car, which obviously makes him very angry, especially since Adam doesn’t have any way to pay him back. He does a few chores around the house, but eventually Peter offers him the job of driving an acquaintance of his around. Considering the alternatives, Adam agrees.
The acquaintance is Roy (Tim Roth), whom we slowly realize is a hitman. While on a job, a passerby (Talulah Riley) happens to see what they are up to and manages to get away, stealing their car and a bag containing some important items in the process. This prompts them to set out in an attempt to recover their possessions, but as Adam learns along the way, he has bigger problems to worry about than someone having seen him at the scene of the crime.
A lot of “The Liability” reminds me of films like “In Bruges” and “Pulp Fiction” (and the latter’s not just because Tim Roth is present in both). Much of the film depends upon the dynamic between the two people trying to pull off a job/make up for a botched job, though if we were to get specific, Adam is not really trying to help out all that much, but does end up helping a bit nonetheless.
Like in the other films I mentioned, they seem like a bit of a mismatched pair. Before he realizes what they’re doing, Adam treats it like a joke (and even later on, he picks up this attitude again). All the while, Roy is as serious as he can be about the whole matter. However, the two eventually come to an understanding of each other. It may take a while to get to that point, especially with all the craziness that happens in between, but when it happens, it’s an intriguing moment.
The first two acts of the film are rather well written, tightly paced, and very engaging. As I mentioned, a lot of it depends upon the dynamic of these two characters, and that’s exactly what keeps the film so engrossing. On top of that, you have an intriguing plot that keeps you guessing as to what could possibly happen next. It starts off as a kind of road film as Adam and Roy drive across England, for what, we don’t quite know, but then things get rather interesting when we find out.
You also get a fair amount of tension when the witness to their crime gets away, a tension that flows through the second act of the film as well as they try to locate and retrieve their stolen items. This continues to build as more secrets are revealed. However, things begin to take a rather strange turn as it heads into the third act, which is where most of the film’s problems reside.
Whereas the first two acts are well written and tightly paced, the third act felt like a bit of a slump as random bits of plot are thrown in in an attempt to spice it up. For instance, there’s the random inclusion of a sex trafficking ring that the witness was trying to track down in order to locate her sister. This eventually leads closer to home, but it couldn’t help feeling like a random inclusion to the plot, especially when it’s not expanded upon very much.
Speaking of random parts of the plot, there were also several random instances of characters being able to find other characters inexplicably. By my count, this happened three times. The pacing also seemed to get a bit languid here, giving this act the feeling of being stretched out a bit in order to fill up some more time. This was a shame given that the first two acts were put together so well, but luckily it doesn’t take away too much from how enjoyable the first part of the film is.
It’s rather surprising to find a film of this quality as a straight-to-DVD release. My first reaction to receiving such a release is to recoil and prepare myself for a bad film that wasn’t deemed worthy enough of being presented in a theater. However, merely 10-15 minutes into the film, I found myself already absorbed by the story. This is something that I always take as a good sign, especially since I consider the story the most important element of the film.
Looking at the technical specs, the video is presented in a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer that delivers a crisp picture despite the overall murkiness of the film. A lot of it takes place in dark or hard to light locations, but the picture always remains very clear. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio is quite lucid, though you may have to turn it up a bit to hear it. The only difficulty the audio presents is in trying to understand the sometimes thick English accents. Other than that, there aren’t any problems to be found.
As far as special features go, the only one the disc comes with is a featurette entitled “Making The Liability with Cast and Crew Interviews.” It may be the only extra included on the disc, but this 33-minute featurette covers a lot of ground. It’s not really a “making of” in regards to how the film was made, though it does cover a little about how the project came about, but more so an examination of the various characters by the cast and crew. It’s definitely worth a watch, especially if you end up enjoying the film.
Don’t let the direct-to-DVD status of the project fool you. “The Liability” is a film that has a decent amount of entertainment to offer, particularly with the story and characters, and when you combine that with the interesting special feature, you get a DVD that’s easy to recommend. It just goes to show that sometimes decent movies get swept under the rug.
Special Features: 7/10
Overall Score: 7/10