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.