Review by Sean Boelman
In recent years, Liam Neeson has proven himself to be a surprisingly reliable action hero, starring in many insubstantial but consistently enjoyable flicks. His newest vehicle, Honest Thief, is much of the same, with enough action to be mindlessly fun but a plot that is nearly indistinguishable from anything else the actor has done.
The film follows an older bank robber who, having found unexpected love, sets up a plan to turn himself in only for his fresh start to be thwarted by two corrupt FBI agents who hope to take the money for themselves. In what amounts to a very basic dirty cop thriller, the movie’s biggest weakness is its predictability, every twist and double-cross easily seen from a mile away.
Still, despite the feeling of familiarity radiating throughout the entire story, it manages to be a passable thriller. Everything about the film feels very competent (and safe), and while viewers will almost certainly wish that there were at least some more creativity to the action sequences, the opportunity to get to see Neeson kick some butt again is welcome.
One of the things that does hurt the movie significantly is that it does not get moving for about thirty minutes. The premise of the film is undeniably basic, so there is no real reason for there to be that level of exposition. Many of the first act’s issues can be attributed to the fact that the writers seem to think that viewers going to see a Liam Neeson B-movie actually care about the characters.
To a certain extent, the genericism extends to the character development: the romantic subplot is about as by-the-book as they come, and the antagonists are all woefully over-the-top. Still, there’s something charming about seeing Neeson as a mild-mannered badass. It’s the role that kicked off this resurgence in his career, and it’s exactly what we see here.
In the supporting cast, the movie’s performances are less noteworthy. There are some talented performers in the ensemble, like Robert Patrick, Kate Walsh, and Jeffrey Donovan, but they are massively underused. Jai Courtney is off-the-walls as the bad guy, but it feels like a performance that should be cool and slick.
There are a few solid shootouts in the film, but for the most part, the way the action is shot is mostly adequate. The movie is aching for two or three really creative setpieces or car chases, as everything that’s here is pretty low-octane. Even for a PG13 action flick, it’s disappointingly tame and safe.
For the most part, Honest Thief serves as passable entertainment. For those looking for mindless popcorn thrills, this isn’t a bad way to spend an hour and forty minutes, even if it isn’t particularly original.
Honest Thief hits theaters on October 16.