Honest Thief Movie Review-An Honest Letdown
Honest Thief movie is a slight step-up from the usual Liam Neeson revenge punch-upperer. Directed by Mark Williams, the co-creator of Netflix favourite Ozark. It takes everyone’s favourite taciturn vengeance merchant and gives him slivers of character and interesting things to play. Ultimately the Honest Thief movie devolves into a routine, perfectly passable crime thriller. But it has enough to lift it above the likes of Taken 2, Unknown and The Commuter in the action section of the actor’s résumé.
It all starts very promisingly. After an opening news-report montage that sets Neeson’s Tom Dolan up as master thief. ‘The In-And-Out Bandit’, we essentially get a meet cute as Neeson has some charming interplay with storage unit manager Annie (Kate Walsh) while he looks to stash his stolen wonga.
A year later, the pair are in a relationship and Tom surprises Annie with a house and an offer to move in. Soon Tom’s M.O. becomes clear. He is going to ’fess up to his crimes, hand back the $9 million. Also do a minimal sentence so he can get back to life with Annie ASAP. The fly in the ointment comes when nefarious Fed John Nivens (Jai Courtney) decides he is going to steal the dosh and place all the blame on Dolan.
Built around a fruitful idea — a master criminal choosing to hand himself in. Honest Thief begins by doing something modern action flicks rarely do: lavishing time and care on its characters. Beyond the Tom-Annie dynamic, even the cops get to talk about things other than plot, with veteran agents Baker (Robert Patrick) and Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan) discussing divorce and dogs.
There are some nice character quirks. Dolan hates the sloppy In-And-Out Bandit moniker but admits ‘The Precise Bandit’ doesn’t work. Also, the film is good on the minutiae of how the thief pulls off his jobs. Targeting smaller banks with older vaults that are next door to empty buildings.
It’s just a shame, then, that the second half gives up on the interest in character. Instead, telling details in favour of a more pedestrian approach. Filled with decent but not spectacular fist-fights, car chases and shoot-outs.
There’s something interesting buried in here about guilt and personal responsibility, but Williams doesn’t eke it out. Instead, choosing to follow Dolan into a hardware store so he can buy stuff to blow shit up. Still, Neeson brings his trademark class, gravitas and persona to the hard-man revenge aspects so that when the time comes to take down the agents who have besmirched his intentions, you know you’re in good hands.
The plot runs out by the hour mark and it’s just fight and chase sequences until the end. The two bad FBI agents boost their violence levels yet are remarkably uninformed about leaving DNA or video evidence or just not being stupid. Jeffrey Donovan, playing a good FBI agent with a spotty Boston accent, somehow survives the film unscathed, offering a nuanced performance in a film that lacks any.
Neeson plays a former Marine. So that may explain his skills with hand-to-hand combat and hotwiring a car because he’s a demolition expert. But he has lines that even he can’t save. “I lied about what I did but not about how I feel about you,” he says to his love. She also has some terrible dialogue, like: “Knowing how to blow stuff up, that’s pretty cool.”
Honest Thief is a pretty generic action thriller only really elevated by Liam Neeson’s mere presence but there just isn’t anything all that special or memorable about it.