Review: Liam Neeson's 'Honest Thief' another dull action thriller
Courtesy of Open Road Films
No matter what you say about Liam Neeson, the guy works harder than most actors his age and the aim to please is high. But his action-movie rebirth that began with “Taken” in 2008 has stalled considerably with duds like “The Commuter,” “Run All Night,” and ”Unknown.“ That downward trend continues with the actor's latest, “Honest Thief” which is basically a rehash of his greatest hits: corrupt cops, lots of bullets, an attractive leading lady, and a narrative that’s so preposterous your brain must be checked at the door. Except “Honest Thief” – which is being thrown into a pandemic challenged marketplace – doesn’t have the grit or tenacity of Neeson’s best work, let alone enough to ask audiences to travel into a movie theater.
In “Thief,” Neeson is cast as nice guy Tom Dolan who, years prior, was a bank robber known by the public as the “in and out bandit.” Recently inspired by Annie Wilkins (Kate Walsh) to give up his life of crime and turn himself in for a plea bargain (“She means more to me than all the dollar bills in the world”) Tom is determined to clear his conscious, do the time, and live out the remainder of his days with no guilt or remorse for his crimes.
Such corny lines of dialogue mine as well have been stripped from the deleted scenes of any Liam Neeson action flick, but at least director Mark William’s almost seems to understand how silly a premise this is, except not even the tongue-in-cheek attitude of “Cold Pursuit” could elevate “Honest Thief” and its pile of clichés.
When Tom phones the Boston F.B.I. ready to turn himself in, Agents Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan) and Sam Baker (Robert Patrick) are slow to believe him (apparently they get dozens of calls a week from impersonators) they send two, low on the totem pole, desk workers Agent Hall (Anthony Ramos) and Nivens (Jai Courtney) to find out if Tom’s story is legit.
Naturally, Hall and Nivens are goons who immediately set up Dolan and rip off his millions in stolen loot. The plan is simple: kill the thief, and harbor his cash for their own pesky motives, but this is Liam Neeson and therefore these bozos death sentences are already written before the opening credits begin. The plan to murder gets botched, leaving Tom on the run trying to clear his name in the desolate streets of Boston. Which is ironic considering he was turning himself in and his name was, already, tainted? I swear Williams and co-screenwriter Steve Allrich should have taken one last perusal of their script and maybe explain that one a little better.
Either way, the film is just a watered-down vehicle that, in any other year, would have been rushed directly to streaming. With the lack of viable content for theaters, “Honest Thief” finds itself at the top of the theatrical marketplace, which apparently only needs double digit box office returns to turn a profit thanks to international sales. That William’s picture was manufactured for overseas audiences is probably the biggest sign of Neeson’s dwindling star power, and the lack of confidence in the picture’s quality.
On most days, I can usually stomach the action charisma of Neeson, but I’m starting to suspect that audiences, like myself, are growing tired of lame action movie mechanics. With “Honest Thief,” you’re bound to see much of the same repetitious plotting accustomed to these pictures minus the payoff.
HONEST THIEF opens in theaters Friday October 16th
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