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Film Review: “Honest Thief” Is a Fun Ride with an Overly Familiar Destination

Written by: Hannah Tran | October 15th, 2020

Film poster: “The Honest Thief”

Honest Thief (Mark Williams, 2020) 2 out of 4 stars.

In his latest movie, Honest Thief, Liam Neeson is given yet another chance to fill the role of our ideal action hero. Focusing on a former bank robber named Tom who decides to turn himself in after falling in love, the movie tells a story about reward and redemption as Tom soon finds himself double-crossed by two FBI agents who see a profit in his particular case. And although it may sound as if Honest Thief fits perfectly into the Neeson mold, it does manage to present a unique catalyst point for its plot to jump off from.

While what comes after may be unfortunately standard, the relationship between Tom and his girlfriend, Annie (Kate Walsh, Almost Love), does add a refreshing romantic element to an otherwise unremarkable story. The movie itself, however, doesn’t seem to recognize the intrigue that their relationship has and often relegates Annie to a minor role, despite the two actors being at their best when placed together. In fact, Honest Thief presents a world of interesting characters but often proves that it isn’t quite sure what to do with them.

l-r: Kate Walsh and Liam Neeson in THE HONEST THIEF ©Briarcliff Entertainment

While its playful mix of dog-carrying Bostonian FBI higher-ups, kindhearted grad-student love interests and coldblooded agents willing to do anything for some cash are clearly intended to be quirkier than those expected from a typical action romp, it doesn’t necessarily make them feel as if they matter. While many quickly prove to be likeable, very few are given the care to surpass their shallow outlines. Their motivation often falls flat, and even on the rare occasion that the script takes the time to develop their backstories, the somber tales of their pasts show little to no bearing on their actions in the present.

Despite this, there are a number of solid performances that elevate the fairly trite characters. Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad) and Anthony Ramos (Hamilton) stand out as corrupt agent Nivens and his corruptible, but conscience-plagued partner. Still, the great cast can’t outrun the film’s own predictability. The “good guys” are clearly good, and the “bad guys” are clearly bad. And once the action begins to kick off, anything that made them unique or flawed or realistic at the beginning of the film is soon forgotten as they each slip into the usual Liam Neeson-type character tropes.

Jai Courtney in THE HONEST THIEF ©Briarcliff Entertainment

Honest Thief is a simple movie that chooses to simply go through the motions. While the initial premise may promise something a bit more playful, the remaining plot chooses a path already proven. This is, however, not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to Liam Neeson movies.

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Hannah Tran is a film critic and filmmaker from Las Vegas, Nevada. She is currently studying film and English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition to her studies, Hannah works as a film screener for the Las Vegas Film Festival and publishes an independent zine focused on highlighing Asian American filmmaking.

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