Honest Thief Review: Neeson’s latest action outing is one of his blandest
Although Liam Neeson has proved time and time again that he’s the definition of a modern-day action hero with a lineage of films that showcase his own special brand of badassery and ass-kicking, his latest outing, Honest Thief, is just another bland entry for the action genre.
The film follows Neeson playing a notorious bank robber named Tom, known to the public as the “In and Out Bandit,” that wants to turn himself in after meeting a woman named Annie (Kate Walsh). Being with Annie for over a year and not robbing any banks since meeting her, Tom is ready to live an honest life and decides to turn himself over to the FBI in the hopes that he can get a reduced sentence to have a better second chance with Annie. However, when FBI agents John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Ramon Hall (Anthony Ramos) decide to take the nine million dollars that Tom wants to use to make a deal for themselves, mistakes are made, and blood is spilled that puts a bigger target on Tom and puts him on the run. Attempting to prove his innocence and keep Annie safe, Tom is forced to fight against Nivens and Hall’s attempts to keep their corrupt activities under wraps and steal Tom’s chance for a more honest living.
Neeson’s last action outing, Cold Pursuit, reenergized and sort of reinvented what an action thriller starring Neeson can be with strong, stylized storytelling and understanding how serious it wants to be. It found a great blend of dark comedy and intense, brutal action while telling a strong story of ice-cold revenge with great performances from more than just Neeson. It set a strong new standard for what to expect for, what seems to be a yearly tradition recently, a new action thriller starring Neeson – one that Honest Thief doesn’t live up to.
Honest Thief has zero ambition behind it in both its action and storytelling as it barely has enough action to get your adrenaline going and contains a dull story full of weak performances. Only having a chase sequence here and there and some miniscule moments of fighting, Honest Thief is probably one of the most boring Neeson action movies recently. Even when the action does come though, it’s nothing special and the camerawork and stunts feel totally uninspired. When it comes to the story and characters, the film doesn’t become anything more original or interesting with how it barely tries to do anything more than just be another action movie. Its attempts to be a more character-driven film ends up making the film even more dull as it can’t even hit the base levels thrills or emotion of a Neeson action movie.
Honestly, it’s pretty clear that there was barely any thought or effort put into this script with the stereotypical characters and storylines that are shown here. The dialogue feels totally recycled from other films in the genre, the character motivations of Tom wanting to have a clean slate with Annie and Ramon going along with Nivens’ plan in order to support his family aren’t fleshed out enough to be compelling, and the film is incredibly lazy and inconsistent in developing its characters. For instance, Annie is initially shown to be a capable and smart psychology grad student, but then looks naïve when she just feeds a suspicious looking Nivens and Ramon information that they take easily advantage of. Even the way the film has her question her relationship with Tom after she finds out his real profession just seems odd since she pretty much just lets it go instantly because of how much she says she loves him. However, we barely get any sort of build up of their relationship and very few moments of them together so any and every attempt the film makes to create emotion from it comes off incredibly forced.
Even the quirks of some characters, like FBI agent Meyers (Jeffery Donovan) dealing with a dog he got from his divorce that he doesn’t want, that are meant to create some funny moments fall totally flat and add to the lackluster feel of the entire film. There could’ve been some decent story beats that touch on Tom having to reconcile with his past behavior, but the film is more concerned with hitting generically familiar story beats that no one on-screen looks like they want to be a part of as the entire cast delivers unremarkable performances. This film definitely has a talented cast, but there’s not enough ambition or energy in the script for them to deliver any sort of emotion that’s viewers will genuinely connect with or enhance the boring dialogue. Even Neeson delivers a kind of “been there, done that” performance that shows his disinterest in the material and regardless how many times the film and Donovan’s performance try to remind you that the film takes place in Boston, Neeson puts in no effort to show that with his performance and he honestly might as well be playing an amalgamation of the characters he’s played in other flicks with how little new he brings to the table.
Honest Thief is another outing for Neeson in the action genre and it’s easily one of the most forgettable, uneventful, and unambitious ones yet. It’s a film that’ll likely fade from memory not too long after viewing and one that many will forget when thinking back through Neeson’s career as a modern action hero.