Director: Mark Williams
Notable Cast: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos, Robert Patrick
It wouldn’t be another year in film if there wasn’t at least one Liam Neeson anchored action thriller to hit theaters. Still, color me shocked that his latest, Honest Thief, was one of the larger films to make it to theaters after the pandemic has crippled the entire industry for most of the year. While so many action films are either postponed or relegated to VOD premieres, leave it to Liam Neeson and his grumbly charm to power through. Fortunately, this latest entry into the action portion of his career is just charming enough, just exciting enough, and just surprising enough to be one that will definitely appease his fanbase. Honest Thief lacks the pizzazz some of the other films of his tenure, particularly those directed by Collet-Serra, but it’s the kind of straightforward comfort food piece of film that hits all of the right spots when needed.
When a legendary thief, Tom (Neeson), meets the woman of his dreams (Walsh) he decides to give up his lifestyle, return the money and try to redeem himself. After his attempt to turn himself and $9 million dollars goes south from a greedy FBI agent (Courtney) who wants to stash the cash for himself, Tom will have to fight to clear his name, save his girlfriend, and cleanse himself of his sins.
If you’ve seen one of the Neeson Action Extravaganzas, then you’ve (more or less) seen them all. Honest Thief, despite some fun elements, is rarely a film meant to surprise or shock. It’s a run of the mill throwback action thriller through and through. It’s often predictable in its plotting, generic in many of its side characters, and often silly in the many, many plot contrivances that continually propel everything forward to keep things thrilling. For more discerning viewers, Honest Thief will be a paint-by-numbers effort that may not thrill as much as some of his others.
Although the film is certainly centered around the screen presence of Neeson, who delivers the usual charming ‘old man who’s seen some shit’ performance that one would expect, the truly surprising part of Honest Thief that makes it worth the watch is the secondary cast. The romantic subplot is, all in all, a generic one, Kate Walsh as the girlfriend Annie adds a lot of emotional support to the narrative and she adds definite chemistry to the mix that comes as a welcome surprise. The same could be said about Jai Courtney who is, shockingly, an asset to the film as the sleazy FBI agent villain. I’ve never been a fan of the actor, outside of his smaller role in Jack Reacher, but he is despicably fun in the film. The final mention to make in this category has to go to a shockingly large and fun role for Jeffrey Donovan as the ally FBI agent both hunting and helping Neeson’s Tom. Donovan simply steals this film in every sequence he is in. He is so charismatic and effective in the film that one has to wonder when he will get his own action thriller to really showcase his abilities.
As for the action, Honest Thief is definitely more of a thriller than a full-on action flick so keep expectations in check. Neeson is getting to an age where most of his action set pieces are shot to hide stunt doubles, but there are a few key sequences that are quite exciting. There is a decent car chase sequence and a handful of fist-to-cuffs moments that jack up the energy of the film. The pacing helps immensely, it’s a very workman script that knows it has to maintain a structure that will not meander too far from the meat and potatoes of its thrills and kills, but it’s not the highest-octane material you’re likely to see this year.
Honest Thief is a fun film that ought to play perfectly into the series of Neeson lead action thrillers for the established fanbase. It’s not going to win over many of the detractors with its formulaic approach to its story and characters, but some fantastic performances and charming character moments add a bit of flair to the proceedings that make it a decent watch.