To run in Red Dead Redemption, you can hold down the X button. It’s more like a determined trot. But to really run, you have to mash the X button repeatedly. Which is a distinctly Rockstar idiosyncrasy. I’m pretty sure that’s how it worked in Grand Theft Auto IV and L.A. Noire. Probably even Rockstar Table Tennis.
But other games don’t make you mash the run button. They know that’s a pain in the butt. They let you just hold down the button to go as fast as you’re going to go. Many games these days don’t even make you hold down the run button. Just tap it and you’ll keep running until you stop, freeing up your run finger/thumb to do things like reload, change weapons, slide, and bunny hop. I’m not convinced they’re doing it right.
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Tim Roth’s first movie was 1984’s The Hit, in which he played a hitman too hot under the collar for his own good, paired with the world weary and wiser John Hurt. If The Hit had turned out differently, The Liability could be its sequel, with Roth grown world weary and wiser thirty years later, and now paired with his own irresponsible young partner. Hence the title.
I love movies about dumb characters who don’t know they’re dumb. As the eponymous liability, Jack O’Connell has the same star quality Roth showed in The Hit, if not the same shrewd cool. What would be mugging in most performances comes across as energetic sincerity for O’Connell. He’s a really good actor, with excellent comic timing and a grand rapport with Roth. Some of my favorite moments in The Liability are O’Connell saying something stupid and Roth unable to muster the wither for a withering look. They’re a lovely team.
The Liability resembles In Bruges in some ways, including its sharp sense of dark humor. It sports truly clever twists and even flashes of astonishing style. A hypnotic “throw me the idol, I’ll give you the whip” scene plays like something Nicolas Winding-Refn would shoot, complete with the neon synth beat of a sexy pop song and the threat of violence coiled tightly just under the surface.
At one point, when Roth’s character is talking about his background, he mentions what sounds like “Angola”. Did he just say Angola?, you might wonder. Whatever. There are other things going on worth following. But later in the movie, when it’s clear that, yes, he did indeed say Angola and it’s relevant for a reason that was otherwise just a quirky detail, the payoff is one of those rare delights you’ll remember for a long time to come.
The Liability is available on video on demand. Watch it here to support Quarter to Three.
ABCs of Death, a wretched horror anthology in which 26 directors around the world were each given a letter of the alphabet to use as the basis for a short film, captures what it’s like to be a fan of horror movies: lots and lots of dreck, some of it gross, much of it inept, almost all of it forgettable. Yet buried underneath it all, you might find a rare gem. Are the three gems in ABCs of Death worth the 23 other shorts you have to sit through?
It won’t be easy. These shorts range from tedious to dull to flat-out “what the hell were you thinking, Ti West, because now you’ve made me like House of the Devil a little less?” They imply a Japanese preoccupation with farting and jacking off, as well as other countries’ directors expressing their fascination with turds and furries.
But the reasons to persevere are D for Dogfight, Q for Quack, and P for Pressure. Marcel Sarmiento, the director of the uneven but interesting Deadgirl, directs the sleekly hilarious and beautifully textured Dogfight, which is literally about a dogfight. The centerpiece of this live action short is a really awesome dog performance. Adam Wingard, the director of A Horrible Way to Die and the framing device for horror anthology V/H/S, seems fully aware of the futility of doing anything meaningful with five minutes and a random letter of the alphabet, particularly when his letter is Q. Both Dogfight and Quack realize that a good option for a horror short is a touch of black humor.
But then there’s Simon Rumley’s Pressure, which is hands down the best thing in this anthology, partly for how it plays with its title (few of these directors seemed to give a damn about their assigned letter, much less whatever word they came up with), but mostly for how it’s actually a horrific short about a character instead of just a hurried concept. Pressure makes the point that horrible things aren’t always only horrible things. This should come as no surprise if you’ve seen Red White & Blue, Rumley’s masterpiece revenge story, arranged in a heartbreaking lattice of confessionals, cross-motivations, and character reveals (Red White & Blue is available in Netflix’s instant view catalog and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who can handle Jacobean excess). Pressure is exactly what I would expect the director of Red White & Blue to deliver.
ABCs of Death is available on video on demand services. Watch it here to support Quarter to Three.