Thursday 10 March 2022

Movie Review: Honest Thief (2020)

A crime thriller, Honest Thief offers an interesting protagonist but is otherwise formulaic to a fault.

Tom Dolan (Liam Neeson) is an aging professional non-violent bank safe robber known as the In and Out Bandit. Never caught or identified, he has successfully committed multiple thefts in various states over many years, stealing a total of $9 million. He moves to the Boston area where he meets and falls in love with divorcĂ©e Annie Wilkins (Kate Walsh). One year later, Tom is ready to leave crime behind and settle down with Annie, and he decides to first clear his conscious by surrendering to the FBI. He connects with Agent Sam Baker (Robert Patrick) and proposes to return all the money in exchange for a short sentence at a minimum security prison.

Agents Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos) are dispatched to close the deal, but the corrupt Nivens spots an opportunity to steal the money and pressures Hall to go along. Baker's untimely appearance results in a shooting. Tom and Annie find themselves on the run with Tom now accused of murder, while Baker's partner Agent Sean Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan) starts to investigate.

The character of Tom Dolan provides Honest Thief with an intriguing-enough core. Liam Neeson injects gruff humanity into the gentleman thief, and just about sells Dolan's difficult decision to turn himself in and admit his crimes. The driving motivation is his love for Annie, and the script by Steve Allrich and director Mark Williams deserves credit for placing a caring, non-violent central character into the middle of an otherwise stock thriller.

Unfortunately, Honest Thief stumbles everywhere else. Logic gaps and lack of attention to details are a constant hazard, including Dolan carelessly yielding the keys to his storage locker, and then bad guys Nivens and Hall stealing boxes full of cash under the watchful gaze of security cameras. Later, a car is totalled but re-emerges unscathed in the following scenes (unless it's a hastily procured replica).

The action scenes are rudimentary and repetitive, with director Williams demonstrating a penchant for plenty of bullets fired but few bullets hitting any meaningful targets. The physical combat scuffles involving 67 year old Neeson are even less convincing, despite Dolan's purported background as a mine-clearing Marine. And once the stage is set with Dolan framed and Meyers dragged into the investigation, the outcome is crushingly predictable.

In the supporting roles, Jai Courtney has limited room to expand on prime villain Agent Nivens, merrily descending into industrial-scale criminality and expecting no one to notice. Jeffrey Donovan fares better as the recently divorced Agent Meyers, his ex-wife's dog providing a nice touch. Honest Thief is honest enough as functional entertainment, but honestly not that good.

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