Film review: The Liability (15)

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LIKE the trade itself, movies about hit men work best when they are quick, capable and thoroughly bloody.

The Liability (15)

Star rating: * *

Only one of these ideas is successfully executed in The Liability, where Peter Mullan’s lairy, shady businessman looks for some gainful employment for his new girlfriend’s son. Nineteen-year-old Adam (Skins’ Jack O’Connell) is given the job of chauffeuring a tight-lipped middle-aged man called Roy (Tim Roth) about his hit man business – and if you’re thinking this is not exactly a stretch for the star of The Hit, at least Roth’s weary presence is one of the film’s few strengths.

Part thriller, and part road movie, it also becomes something of a buddy movie, since Roy views gormless Adam as a potential apprentice to carry on the bumping-off business after Roy gratefully embraces retirement, with a just a little regret.

Roth and Mullan both give quite a bit more than the material demands, but of course the movie gets mired in the usual amoral stone-cold stuff that makes you wish there weren’t quite so many British directors keen to serve as apprentices to the Guy Ritchie school of tight and ruthless filmmaking. Based on a script by John Wrathall, the picture doesn’t break an inch of new ground; there’s a girl (Talulah Riley) who is such an undernourished part of the picture that she doesn’t even get a name. Occasionally the black comedy does crack a decent joke, but at some stage they really should explain how a distinctive car (a Ford Granada) can be present at every gory crime scene in the north of England without attracting police interest.

Selected release from Friday