Review – HONEST THIEF: Neeson as less-tough-than-usual bad guy

Will someone just let Tom Carter turn himself in already? 

That’s the interesting premise behind HONEST THIEF, a more slowed-down actioner featuring yet another gruff lead performance from the always reliable Liam Neeson. I feel like every couple of months, even during this current pandemic, that he suddenly appears in a movie and I want to be among the first to see it. There’s just something about his persona and character, ever since the infamous TAKEN series, that makes him a somewhat unlikely action star. I mean, this was the guy I first saw in the 1990s play a loving boyfriend in HUSBANDS & WIVES and then play Oskar Schindler, and now here we are. 

Neeson’s Tom Carter is a “former” bank robber who stole over US$9 Millon dollars over his career, angry that he was nicknamed the “In & Out Bandit” for his work, and tries to turn himself in to the FBI; he’ll give back all of the cash but wants a reduced sentence. Why is this? Tom met a woman named Annie (Kate Walsh) and wants to start a new life with her. Tom trying to call the FBI attracts the attention of Agent Baker (Robert Patrick…yes, T-1000 himself), who passes along the case to Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos). As Nivens and Hall investigate, they come across a portion of the cash and try to keep it for themselves, killing Baker in the process and trying to frame Tom for the crime. 

There’s a good sequence early on in the picture, something I wish the movie would have shown more of, where it is shown how Tom cases his bank jobs and then performs them. There are a few fleeing shots of him breaking in through an empty neighboring building and then doing a slower-than-usual process of safe cracking. Most of the movie is Tom trying to convince the agents to let himself be turned in as well as trying to reveal his true self to Annie, along with evading the crooked agents, one of which has more motives than the other.

Filmmaker Mark Williams, who directed the decent A FAMILY MAN starring Gerard Butler from a few years ago, takes on a bit of a more slow vibe in telling this story. Set in a grey and dreary Boston, he uses a lot of lived-in locations which come off as pretty bleak at times, yet he’s also effective when the action kicks in. There are also some good performances out of the cast and thankfully Williams and his filmmaking team don’t throw Neeson into the somewhat typical tougher-than-nails action superhero that is more recently famous for. I was also impressed by Kate Walsh as Tom’s girlfriend who has a bit more to do than action movie girlfriends, and Anthony Ramos has a terrific supporting turn as a conflicted FBI agent. 

Overall, I felt HONEST THIEF was missing a genuine energy for a potboiler. It has a pretty weak final act and finale that I wanted more out of, even though it does end on a positive note. Still, it benefits from an always reliable Liam Neeson and a pretty fun concept of a man trying to hit the restart button on his life. 

Rating: **½ out of ****

HONEST THIEF is currently playing in Canada via VVS Films and will be released in the United States on October 16th.

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