Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Mark Williams
Stars: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos, Robert Patrick.
Tom Dolan (Liam Neeson) is a bank robber with a conscience. A former Marine and bomb disposal expert he turned his hand to robbing banks using his expertise. Working over long weekends he robbed a succession of banks in smaller towns and never killed anyone. He was known as “the in and out bandit”, a nick name he despised, and stole over $9 million over eight years. But then he meets Annie (Kate Walsh), a graduate student who manages the self-storage facility where he has stashed the loot from his most recent caper. After their relationship develops, he decides to go straight. He contacts the FBI, hoping to turn over the money in exchange for a lighter sentence that will allow him to continue seeing Annie. At first FBI supervisors Baker (Robert Patrick, from T2: Judgment Day, etc) and Meyers (Jeffery Donovan, from Burn Notice, etc) are sceptical, but they send a couple of agents to check out his story.
Agent Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos, from the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, etc) arrive at the hotel where Dolan is staying and head off to check out the self-storage unit. Finding the money tucked away in boxes, Nivens decides to double cross Dolan by keeping the money and killing Dolan. But Baker gets in the way and Nivens kills him, framing Dolan for the crime. Dolan is forced to go on the run to protect Annie and to try and expose Nivens and prove his innocence.
Honest Thief is a cliched and formulaic but undeniable fast-paced action film that has been scripted by Steve Allrich and Ozark co-creator Mike Williams. The relentless pace and nonstop action glosses over the many glaring plot holes. This is the sophomore feature from Williams as a director (he previously helmed the 2016 drama A Family Man which starred Gerard Butler), and his handling of the action scenes is muscular. Much of the film was shot on location in Boston, and cinematographer Shelly Johnson (Greyhound, etc) brings the streetscapes and suburban streets to life.
The action beats include a series of car chases, shootouts and fights, and they all somehow seem familiar from a succession of recent B-grade action films starring Neeson, from the superior Taken through to Non-Stop and the like. Although Neeson said that after Cold Pursuit he was giving up the genre for more substantial fare it seems that the lure of the dollar was too much to walk away from altogether. He once again plays the wronged man who has a special set of skills which he effectively employs in seeking retribution, and he also manages to growl menacingly down the phone at his antagonists. But Dolan also seems uncomfortable about the violence he inflicts here.
Honest Thief is yet another variation on Neeson’s familiar screen persona as the aging and seemingly indestructible action hero able to bring down villains half his age, and he brings his usual gruff style and undeniable charm and presence to the pulpy material here. Walsh also has a strong presence here as the damsel in distress, and there is good chemistry between her and Neeson. Courtney is a little over the top as the decidedly unlikable main villain of the piece, who is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way, and he chews the scenery with ease. Ramos brings a nice touch of ambiguity to his performance as the conflicted Hall, who grows increasingly reluctant to follow Nivens. Donovan also makes the most of his role as Meyers, the officious and seemingly dull FBI agent investigating Dolan and the murder of Baker, and he imbues the character with a touch of dry wit.
While Honest Thief fails to deliver anything new to the genre it is nonetheless an entertaining revenge/action thriller that offers more than enough to please fans who long to see more of Neeson in action hero mode dishing out the hurt to those who thoroughly deserve it.
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