Movie Review: Honest Thief20th December 2020
Three years ago, Liam Neeson announced his retirement from thriller films. Honest Thief, the latest thriller starring the acclaimed Irishman, shows signs of life. The allure of big budgets, action sequences and the chance to have first billing far too irresistible to Neeson. He’s looking rather spry in this, meandering his way through life as he tries to deal with a new relationship and the guilt of robbing banks over the course of a few years. With noble reasons for robbing banks, including such gems as “he enjoys it”, Honest Thief traipses through the expected tropes of righteous men in tough situations with such a banal style to it all.
After confessing his crimes to the FBI to clear his guilty conscience, Tom Dolan (Neeson) finds that the men he looks to bring him to justice are far more corrupt than he is. A tale as old as time, but this one feels relatively underwhelming. Director Mark Williams fails to connect with his cast on this, static direction with bland performances. The inevitable marks of a newcomer to camerawork, Williams has no natural style or unique arsenal to play around with. Very staple of this genre, and a sad shame to see he isn’t willing to move past what is expected of him. He never goes any further than acceptable. No interesting dynamics to highlight, never a sign that it’ll come to life, although it might be unfair to expect anything more from a filler action flick.
Somewhat slow considering such a short running time, Honest Thief struggles tirelessly to make its story work. It misses the mark far too many times, admirable it may be to see it try so hard and so often to bounce back, it just doesn’t work. The action itself is oddly comical at times. Coming out of absolutely nowhere, and pairing Neeson with Kate Walsh and a generic soundtrack in these early moments, will make for relatively bland story progression. Very cliché not just in how our story develops, but the way it does so. A typical structure, oddball side-characters that are meant to bring some meandering style of light brevity, none of it comes together, though. As uniform as all the other action films of this year, but dabbling in quality from time to time.
Blurring the line between hero and anti-hero more than ever, Neeson shows he can still hold his own, despite his own worries about age. Hoping for some breakthrough in the action genre is futile, but Honest Thief is a fine film. Nothing horrid, and aided tremendously by how relaxed Neeson is in these roles. Choices from Williams are questionable at times, relying on tropes that would work had they not been placed in moments that feel far away from his intended style. Charming characters that are competent as ever, but direction and writing that can’t stretch far enough to provide anything of worth. A sad shame to see the wasted opportunities, but a comfortable way to lose an hour or two. That’s all that’s required of Honest Thief, but it has the potential and budget to go further than an acceptable level of competency.