“Honest Thief” might be an oxymoron, just like “jumbo shrimp” or “military intelligence”. This movie has a tightly-wound plot and some formidable characters, and it might be an ‘original copy’ of many other ones, but it is one perfect for these new ‘weirdly normal’ times.
Tom (played by Liam Neeson) is an ex-military bomb expert who has made headlines as the ‘In-n-Out Bandit’. He has committed many bank robberies over the past years, and he has amassed over $9 million. But his methods are non-violent and he gets modest amounts from smaller banks. Tom changes his attitude after he meets Annie (played by Kate Walsh). She turns him ‘honest’, so he stops his criminal activity. He wants to spend his life with Anne, not spend his illegal dollars. He decides to give up his cash stash and will confess to all his past sins. That would get him a light sentence and get him out back to Anne.
Tom contacts the FBI. He talks to Supervisor Sam Baker (played by Robert Patrick). Baker thinks it is just another phone call from a loony guy claiming to be the Bandit. Baker’s partner is Agent Myers (played by Jeffrey Donovan), and these agents based in Boston have heard many of these claims over the years. Baker sends two field Agents to meet with Tom. Agent Nivens (played by Jai Courtney) and his partner Agent Hall (played by Anthony Ramos) do not believe Tom. Until he shows them a storage unit key that leads to millions of stolen dollars. Nivens is corrupt and he wants to cut Tom out of everything – permanently. However, their Supervisor Baker stops by the hotel room where Tom was being held at gun point.
Next thing, Baker is dead — and Tom is the main suspect. Tom and Agent Hall know the truth: Agent Nivens shot Baker dead, and was planned to do the same to Tom. But Tom gets away, and he happens to see Anne who was coming to visit him. They both vanish, but Agents Nivens and Hall are gunning for them. Agent Myers has lost his partner and his friend, and he thinks something is fishy with the story from Nivens and Hall. But with Tom missing and Baker dead, there is no proof. Tom explains his past life to Anne. She is shocked, and she had no idea that Tom was capable of all that theft. But she believes he has an honest heart, and he did plan on giving up all of his illegal cash.
Tom is on the run and is wanted for Baker’s murder. He needs to clear his name, and he needs to give up to the FBI. But that last time ended very badly, so he needs to find another way to do it. Tom is able to get in touch with Agent Meyers, and they want to work something out. But Nivens finds Anne and beats her badly. Hall is shocked, and he knows that Nivens is out-of-control. Tom finds out about Anne and now he wants to take down Nivens more than anything else. If only there was a way that Tom can work Nivens into confessing everything that he did, and getting himself off the hook…
“Honest Thief” does everything just like many other movies have done before. Especially many Liam Neeson movies, as a matter of fact. The story line is telegraphed in pretty much every scene. Liam Neeson playing a bad guy with a good heart? Telegraphed. Jai Courtney playing a guy who turns out to be bad? Telegraphed. Neeson’s character being able to use his past military knowledge to become a threat to the bad guys. Telegraphed.
That is great, except the telegraph is obsolete from back into the 1890’s. There is very little that is fresh or original in the story or the delivery. Liam Neeson does is same character that he has perfected in the past decade or two. He has (as usual) “a particular set of skills” that he uses to get even with guys who have done him wrong. The Jai Courtney character is a ‘good guy’ who immediately turns bad. The stakes of the movie are never clear. But Liam Neeson is a fine actor and he knows how to play this type of role in his sleep. Which in this case is probably what happened here…
“Honest Thief” uses very little of Liam Neeson’s skill or charm to give you a very flat and formless movie. Call it an “Honest Disappointment”…
Directed by: Mark Williams
Written by: Steve Allrich, Mark Williams
Starring: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Robert Patrick, Anthony Ramos, Jeffrey Donovan, Jai Courtney
Music by: Mark Isham
Distributed by: Open Road Films
Release date: October 16, 2020
Length: 99 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong violence, crude references and brief strong language
Genre: Action, Thriller