Even in a year as weird as 2020, there’s something comforting about still having a “Liam Neeson with a gun” movie.
“Honest Thief” stars Liam Neeson in the titular role as a former bank robber who wants to trade the $9 million he stole over the years for a reduced sentence after meeting a woman (Kate Walsh). Robert Patrick, Anthony Ramos, Jeffrey Donovan, and Jai Courtney also star, while Mark Williams (who co-created the show “Ozark”) directs.
In 2017, Liam Neeson announced he was done with the action genre, claiming he was “sixty-[bleeping]-five” and the genre had worn out its welcome with him. Since then, he has starred in “The Commuter,” “Widows,” “Cold Pursuit,” and now “Honest Thief,” all of which feature our favorite Irishman running around with a gun. It is what it is, can’t fault Neeson for wanting to pocket as much money as he can, and sometimes these films have a decent enjoyment factor (“Run All Night” is one of the better cop thrillers in recent memory). “Honest Thief” has all the ingredients of a successful romp, from corrupt FBI agents to a wrongfully accused Neeson on the run, but it lacks the energy or true intrigue to set itself apart from any other thriller you can find in the Walmart bin.
I usually like these Liam Neeson movies well-enough, most of the time they get a 5 or 6 from me. So I didn’t go into this expecting anything special or new. Neeson is doing his half-hearted attempt to downplay his Irish accent (he’s a former Marine, implying he has been an American for at least several decades), and he gives a dedicated-enough performance. There isn’t much nuance or character development for anyone here (the film is 93 minutes without credits so there isn’t much extra room to flesh characters out), but he gets the job done.
The set-up of the film is probably the most entertaining part, with Neeson wanting to turn himself in and two corrupt FBI agents (Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos) deciding to take the money for themselves and frame Neeson. That part is cool, but once Neeson goes on the run with his girlfriend (a serviceable Kate Walsh) things become pretty boilerplate. The climax slightly redeems itself, but not in any sort of revolutionary way.
I liked the way the film was shot, it’s pretty simple and clean, and there are a few good shots of around the Boston area. But whenever there are special effects (including one explosion) things look *very* direct-to-DVD quality, and some of the logic of characters is non-existent.
“Honest Thief” is a very harmless PG-13 thriller, and if you come across it on TV one day then sure, check it out. It is slated to play in theaters, and like “The War with Grandpa” I wouldn’t praise this as the savior of cinema or worth you venturing out into the real world to see, but if these Neeson shooters are your cup of guilty pleasure tea, then you should get your fix.
Critics Rating: 5/10