Honest Thief, 2020.
Directed by Mark Williams.
Starring Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos, and Robert Patrick.
Wanting to lead an honest life, a notorious bank robber turns himself in, only to be double-crossed by two ruthless FBI agents.
Honest Thief opens with a montage of Liam Neeson’s military veteran turned career criminal demonstrating a different kind of skills, this time crafting explosives to precisely blow open bank vaults and take the money. There is even some voiceover narration from Liam Neeson, but it’s not until 40 minutes into the movie where there’s finally an answer to the biggest question; why is Tom Carter touring around the USA robbing banks in the first place. It’s clearly not about getting rich and spending money, but there’s also no Robin Hood dynamic
Viewers will most likely forget they ever wondered, as the reasoning is just as maddening as everything else driving the plot forward here. One day while purchasing a storage unit, Tom has a meet-cute with Annie (Kate Walsh). Flash forward a year and Tom is so wholesomely in love that he has long quit his bandit routine and is planning on purchasing a luxurious home for the two of them. Tom’s guilty conscious is also kicking in although he can’t quite find the courage to spill the beans to Annie his unlawful post-military lifestyle. So he decides to ring the FBI and turn himself in, attempting to cut a deal returning all of the money (remember, he’s not actually spending it or giving it away) in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Now, the concept that Tom has met a woman so amazing he feels compelled to redeem himself to such extreme lengths that he’s willing to go to jail is already preposterous, and I’m someone that considers myself a romantic. However, where things truly fly off the rails (and we are not even 20 minutes in here) is not so much that the FBI is skeptical that they are actually talking to who the media has labeled the “In and Out Bandit”, but the outrageous amount of ineptness they show investigating the situation.
Due to the suspicions from agent Baker and agent Myers (Robert Patrick and Jeffrey Donovan respectively), they send out a couple of lower-ranking agents over to the hotel Tom is staying at temporarily. Those agents are Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos), who are juxtaposed as morally corrupt and bad decision-makers rather than good cop bad cop. Jai Courtney is a remorseful and scummy delight as the former and seems to be the only actor trying to make this piece of oddly muted insanity somewhat fun and entertaining. Once he catches on that the money is real, he drags Hall into a series of schemes to steal the money and frame Tom for much worse. endangering Annie along the way.
By the way, if you are wondering what Annie thinks of any of this, she pretty much goes from shocked and horrified that she could be dating a pathological liar or sociopath to eventually cheering on Tom as his revenge sees him blowing up another character’s home. It exposes a greater issue within Honest Thief, that director Mark Williams (co-writing alongside Steve Allrich) can’t decide on painting Tom as a pacifist (how does someone that has never killed anyone during their time serving and was only a bomb squad diffuser expert know how to fight like Liam Neeson from Taken) or a vengeful psychopath hell-bent on settling the score from those wronging him. Likewise, the script just has Annie react in regards to whatever works for the ludicrous narrative.
Granted, plenty of this could be forgivable if the action made up for it, but Honest Thief is so sparse on that front and self-serious, it’s as if the filmmakers didn’t know what to do with their implausible but admittedly creative idea; they spend more time trying to justify everyone’s actions even though it’s all stupid to begin with and shouldn’t matter. The few car chases and fight scenes that are here lack energy and excitement, To a degree, even Liam Neeson seems bored with this one and phoning it in. It’s a tonally confused mess that’s neither dramatic, exhilarating, or romantic.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com