Liam Neeson has become known for starring in generic action films, all of which are at least watchable, though Honest Thief barely makes the cut.
We love Liam Neeson’s action-thrillers because they’re dumb and entertaining, the kind of movies you don’t need to use your brain for. They often take themselves more seriously than they need to, and can in some cases deliver genuine thrills. Unfortunately, Neeson’s latest, Honest Thief, does neither of those things.
In it, Neeson plays reformed bank robber Tom, who after meeting the woman of his dreams (Kate Walsh), decides to confess the sins of his past not only to his woman but to the FBI, thereby receiving a reduced sentence for his… honesty. The Bureau sends two of their more opportunistic agents (played by Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos), who upon discovering that the money Tom has claimed to have stolen is real, and within their grasp, decide to keep the money for themselves and kill Tom.
Things go haywire when their Chief (Robert Patrick) gets caught in a tense standoff between the agents and Tom, and instead takes the bullets intended for the honest thief. Tom is then, expectedly so, wanted for the murder of the FBI chief, and begins a mission of revenge to clear his name and protect his new love interest.
The storyline is generic action-thriller movie-fodder at best, which can still work when handled correctly, but in this case, isn’t. There’s no tension in any of the scenes that are meant to be tense, there is no romantic chemistry between the male and female leads, and the action is non-inventive. Furthermore, there is barely any character development for Tom, who we find almost impossible to empathize with because of it.
Tom’s past and relationship with Annie, his love interest, is explored in the first fifteen minutes of the film, and the audience is expected to emotionally invest in those characters, but their development is not awarded enough time to allow the audience to do so. From there, it’s all about Tom’s and the FBI agents’ missions to one-up each other, fighting to come out on top and in the clear of persecution or death.
It’s mostly a snooze-fest, and the characters are just too hard to get behind and root for because they’re not very interesting. The only redeeming quality comes with Anthony Ramos’s FBI agent Hall’s story-arc, which sees his moral compass severely affected by the corruption forced by his partner. While that story angle has more room for exploration, it’s still tropical stuff. It’s a shame Honest Thief misses the mark so badly, considering its director, Mark Williams, has done excellent work on TV’s Ozark (which he created), a show that’s full of suspense and features some deeply engrossing characters.
Honest Thief is mostly forgettable, and one that should really only be seen by Liam Neeson purists.
Follows Cold Pursuit (2019), for which Liam Neeson previously declared would be his last action movie role.