Back in 2008 a gravelly voiced Neeson delivered that all too famous ‘I have a particular set of skills’ line that suddenly bombarded him to an unlikely action star status. Since then he’s had a steady stream of sequels and similar tough guy fare ranging from decent to entertaining. Honest Thief is the newest addition to that list, though it might not make it to anyone’s top three.
Tom (Liam Neeson) has made a career for himself as the infamous in and out bandit. A meticulous thief robbing banks without ever getting caught or even identified. After amassing a small fortune, he meets Annie (Kate Walsh) and unexpectedly falls in love. This romantic change persuades him to give up his life of crime and come clean. When he contacts the FBI to negotiate a deal, things take a predictable turn for the worse.
Young agent Nivens (Jai Courtney) and his partner Hall (Anthony Ramos) decide to keep the stolen money for themselves and in the chaos that ensues a fellow agent loses his life. A murder that’s quickly pinned on Tom who now needs to run to clear his name.
The biggest problem this production faces is the rather pedestrian screenplay. We’ve seen a few of these man on a mission movies for Neeson and this one doesn’t seem to be adding much in terms of plotting. The story beats are not only very familiar, I’d go so far as to call them tired. To be honest the set-up isn’t all that believable either. For a character that’s supposed to be such a precise planner Tom puts a lot of trust in an agency that’s hellbent on putting him behind bars. Walsh doesn’t get much to do besides her love interest duties and every other character is a cardboard cutout with little motivation behind the radical decisions they make.
So the writing isn’t all that, but at least these kinds of movies provide you with some high-octane fun right? Right? Well, sadly no. There are too many lulls between the various uninspired chases and shoot outs and even when the action spikes up, the right word to describe those scenes would be lackluster. There’s no excitement, nothing to propel the action forward. The film exists in a sort of vacuum. Even the few attempts at levity fall flat.
Neeson does have a particular set of skills, but in Honest Thief those skills are wasted on a bland actioner with no discernable identity of its own.
Review by Stephen Dhondt
IN AUSTRALIAN CINEMAS 22 OCTOBER
Review – ‘Honest Thief’
Reviewed online (screener shared by publicist), October 21, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 98 min.
PRODUCTION: Ingenious Media presents a Rialto Distribution release of an Argonaut Entertainment Partners, Briarcliff Entertainment, Cutting Edge Group, Dreadnought Films, Honest Thief Productions, J Cubed Film Finance, Samuel Marshall Productions, Sprockefeller Pictures, Zero Gravity Management production. Producers: Craig Chapman, Jonah Loop, Charlie Dorfman, Tai Duncan, Myles Nestel, Mark Williams. Executive producers: Andrea Ajemian, Jonathan Bross, Christelle Conan, Stephen Emery, Tara Finegan, David Gilbery, Eric Gold, Warren Goz, John Jencks, James Masciello, Matthew Sidari, Joe Simpson, Martin Sprock, Jay Taylor, Simon Williams, Lisa Wilson.
CREW: Director: Mark Williams. Screenplay: Steve Allrich, Mark Williams. Editing: Michael P. Shawver. Cinematography: Shelly Johnson. Score: Mark Isham.
WITH: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos, Robert Patrick.