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The Liability / The Hitman’s Apprentice (2012)

CRUMBLIES… 3 crumblies

Black comedy time! Murder! Mayhem! A road-movie! Oh yes!

Look, no offence, but the young can be fucking irritating. First they get born and shit; a lot. Then they learn to walk, smell bad, and follow you everywhere. Then comes the talking – oh, the decades of talking. Then the nosing through your browser history, recordings of your attacks on Eastern European girls you’ve trafficked to the UK, and crashing your criminally-funded car. Such is the problem of the terrifying Peter Mullan (as Peter), enduring the stupidity of his wife’s first-born, the crucifiable stupid Jack O’Connell (as Adam). What to do with The Liability?

Why, make him your Hitman’s Apprentice. Get him to go on a road-trip to a kill with Tim Roth as Roy and hope some kind of competence is on the cards. It isn’t. But the gradual – strange – warming between grumpy hitman Roy and untenably dim apprentice Adam is some kind of joy.  Murderous shit happens and the two are happened upon in the woods by Talulah Riley as Eastern Europeanly accented The Girl.  Roy gets his first go at assassination, but can’t do it. So The Girl gets away in their car and the two give chase.

Now, look, there’s a load of faffing about in cars and vans. A bit of kidnap. A lot of blood. But we get to watch an ageing, tired-of-it old hitman telling the youngster how not to be rubbish, getting ignored, taking the pain as a result. It won’t be an unfamiliar scenario to anyone over fifty. Fuck it, forty.  Mid-thirties if you’re trapped in the fast-food business. You’ll find yourself sighing along with Roth as he takes deadpanning to a new level. He wants to get to his daughter’s wedding after this last ever job. Adam and The Girl really aren’t helping. And, as expected, the plot’s all about Peter’s lies and the Girl’s revenge.

Adam is as puppyishly irritating as he gets captured by The Girl and not unpleasantly tormented. Just before being unpleasantly tormented. Little shit has it coming, but O’Connell, damn him, gets us to care.

Riley…now, look, old Jack is an old heterosexual gentleman who went through life in love with Mrs Jack and deeply nervous of men who hounded women with crassness – and women who seemed to sex life up to make the crassness happen. Part of this is jealousy and women-written-by-men, I’m sure, but, you know…also not blind. Riley’s career seems to have a lot of look-at-her-body moments. That can’t be right, can it? The Liability includes one of those moments and, given the sex trafficking plot, takes the black comedy into fucked up and wrong. Pardon my conflicted piety. Dangerous performance, mind.

My sympathies are mostly with Roy: trying to retire, an emotional journey beneath the gruff, never really likely to get there. He’s a man in middle years dragged at by the insane demands of the young. The Liability is dark, bleak, coldly funny with no conscience regarding is characters, but it hurts most when Roy’s the one it attacks.

Pffft – middle-age, eh? You’ll like the ending if blood does it for you.

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