Honest Thief

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Liam Neeson in Honest Thief.
Liam Neeson in Honest Thief.
Photo: Empire Entertainment




Tom Carter (Liam Neeson), a notorious bank robber known as the "In and Out Bandit" for the way in which he would break into and rob banks, decides to come clean after meeting a woman, Annie Wilkins (Kate Walsh), with whom he wants to spend the rest of the life, preferably free of guilt. He tries to cut a deal with the FBI that, in return for every cent that he stole, he would get a vastly reduced prison sentence in a minimum-security prison, but things quickly turn sour when a pair of dirty FBI agents double-cross him.


Just when you thought that Liam Neeson was all set to move on from generic Taken-like thrillers (be it for the fluff of Made in Italy, the wrenchingly real drama of Ordinary Love or even putting a twist on the thriller with the wonderfully, blackly comic, Cold Pursuit), here he is again in yet another fairly ordinary thriller that is about as predictable, cliché and unimaginative as can be.

Once again, this is pure direct-to-video fodder that escapes its fate mainly through its A-level (or at least comfortably B-level) cast. Liam kicking ass is still a significant box office draw – which is rather useful in what has been the worst year for cinemas in decades.

Is there anything left to say here, then? Have we not covered basically the same ground since one of cinema's great "serious" actors unexpectedly became one of the biggest action stars on the planet?

Once again, Liam Neeson plays a decent, but dangerous, man with a "particular set of skills" fighting for his life and/or the life of his loved ones against impossible odds in a thriller full of all the usual tricks and tropes of the genre. Generic action-thriller score? Check. Wide, overhead shots of the city to showcase how in over their heads our heroes clearly are? Check, check. Competent but uninspired action scenes that include at least one gunfight, a car chase, an unarmed brawl and a final showdown with the Big Bad? Check, check, check and check again.

There's not a single thing about Honest Thief that we haven't seen seven million times before (much of it in movies starring Liam Neeson) but, despite it all, in the canon of meh Liam Neeson thrillers, it actually rises very nearly to the top. It ain't Cold Pursuit but it sure as hell ain't Taken 3, either.

These sorts of straight, down-the-line genre pieces live and die by their particular details, and Honest Thief has enough little (very little) quirks and tiny pleasures to make it a particularly painless viewing experience, even for those of us who have had more than our fill of generic thrillers to last a lifetime.

Neeson is, as always, rock solid and likeable but that tends to be true for even his worst movies. The rest of the cast does add an extra oomph to the proceedings, though. Kate Walsh is more than game to keep up with Neeson, adding some much-needed spunk to what could easily have been just a damsel-in-distress role. Robert Patrick, meanwhile, adds some gravitas to the film in a small but crucial role that brings to mind his reassuringly steady Agent John Doggett in the later seasons of The X-Files. I've never been much of a Jai Courtney fan, but he is undoubtedly good at playing a smackable douchebag. So he's effective, if bland, as the one person here who screams "Villain!" from the moment he first appears on screen.

The real key to the success of the film, though, (aside from its snappy running time and competent enough direction by Mark Williams, who also writes the equally competent enough script with Steve Allrich) is Jeffrey Donovan as the agent that has the most hope of standing between Tom Carter and the corrupt FBI agents on his tail. His Agent Meyers is a put-upon but weirdly chilled good cop and Donovan – who you'll recognise from loads of things even if you don't know the name – brings plenty of warmth and some much-needed humour to a film that, to its great credit, doesn't take itself too seriously. That his character quirk of choice is carrying around the cutest dog on the planet (his ex-wife's – she got the house, he got her dog) wherever he goes certainly doesn't hurt either.

And "cute" isn't actually a bad description for the film, in general. It has all the substance of a Tinkies, but it's sweet-natured and fun enough to rise above the typically nastier and more po-faced Neeson thriller with surprising ease.


Honest Thief is now showing in cinemas.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24