This time last year, it looked entirely possible that Liam Neeson might be walking away from all those action roles without a second glance. Not that he’d said as much, but his sensitive performance in the beautiful Ordinary Love was so far away from any of the Taken franchise or its close relations, that it looked on the cards. But, as Honest Thief demonstrates, we’re going to have to wait, even if he is toning things down when it comes to the hand to hand combat and gun battles.
He’s Tom, who’s relieved a number of small town banks of a lot of money without giving the cops the slightest inkling of who might be the culprit. As a result, the media nickname him The In And Out Bandit and he looks set to continue his career until he meets and falls in love with Annie (Kate Walsh). Inspired by their relationship to change his life, he gets in touch with the FBI aiming to hand himself in – with a few conditions of course – but his case is put in the hands of a couple of corrupt agents, tempted by his stash of cash. And when they frame him for the death of their senior officer, the race is on for him to prove his innocence, protect his lady and, of course, still change his life.
Which makes it sound like yet another actioner and, in truth, that’s what it is. Except that, a couple of fights and some gunfire aside, Neeson doesn’t physically exert himself all that much, sticking to car chases and pushing the occasional button to detonate a bomb in a narrative that aims to be something more than it really is. References to other – and better – thrillers simply accentuate that it isn’t up to the mark when it comes to creating tension, despite the efforts of Mark Isham’s soundtrack. And that’s down to the story itself. You might not exactly see it coming, but you’ve a pretty good idea where this tale of the supposed bad guy turning good and the good guys turning bad is going.
Nor does it ask much of Neeson as an actor and he plays it at the same level, giving the character just as much as he needs, no more, no less. At the other end of the scale is Jai Courtney as the corrupt FBI agent, all staring, mad eyes and over-emphasised dialogue, a performance that comes with a large tub of mustard on the side. He’s perhaps the most memorable thing in the film, and for all the wrong reasons.
An actioner with only a modest amount of action and a thriller that’s short on thrills, Honest Thief makes you long even more for Neeson to turn his hand to something more deserving of his talents. As it is, the film is instantly forgettable. Honestly.
Thriller, Action, Crime | Cert: 15 | Signature Entertainment | 23 October 2020 | Dir. Mark Williams | Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Robert Patrick.