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Director: Mark Williams
Writers: Steve Allrich, Mark Williams
Stars: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney
Neither as sadistic as Taken, nor as existential as The Grey, Neeson’s latest tough guy outing is a tight and efficient thriller that will keep fans happy
It has enough pithy dialogue and character quirks to elevate it above the Irish actor’s more humdrum recent offerings.
Taking things that belong to characters played by Liam Neeson has proved an ill-advised course of action for movie villains. Whether they are separating him from his daughter, family, identity or freedom, past experience dictates that those responsible will fall foul of the Irish hard man’s particular set of skills – and all within a lean, 90-minute running time.
Honest Thief follows this play book to the letter, with the 68-year-old Neeson playing a notorious bank robber looking to turn himself in, who is double-crossed by a pair of opportunistic FBI agents.
Set in and around the foggy blue-collar backstreets of Boston, Neeson’s character, former marine turned safe-cracker Tom Carter has knocked off a dozen banks in as many years. Dubbed the “In & Out Bandit” for his slick, non-violent execution, the authorities have no clue as to his identity until Carter offers to turn himself in.
His blossoming romance with Annie (Kate Walsh) has him yearning for a fresh start, and he offers to return all US$9 million in stolen cash in exchange for a light sentence and second chance.
Shady Feds Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos) have other ideas – they steal the cash for themselves and frame Carter for the murder of their boss, Baker (Robert Patrick). And so a once-honourable crook looking to go straight is forced into a violent game of cat-and-mouse by the same law enforcement officials he intended to surrender to, with his shell-shocked girlfriend along for the ride.
Those familiar with Neeson’s output in the past decade will find few surprises in Honest Thief, which is neither as sadistic as Taken, nor as existential as The Grey. Instead, veteran producer-turned director Mark Williams delivers a tight, coherent and efficient thriller, peppered with enough moments of pithy dialogue and ancillary character quirks to elevate it above Neeson’s more humdrum offerings.
Jeffrey Donovan’s Agent Meyers is a particular highlight, reluctantly leading the investigation after his partner Baker is gunned down, all while licking his wounds from a freshly signed divorce and babysitting his ex-wife’s overly dependent pet dog.
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Walsh similarly ensures Annie is more than just a trophy wife to embody Carter’s redemption. She shows a punchy resilience and isn’t shy to question Carter’s motives, while convincing us that she is worth his inevitable sacrifice. Courtney’s loathsome pit bull of a villain may be a little one-note, but his relentless pugnacity provides a satisfying foil for Neeson’s honest thief.