HONEST THIEF: Another good-not-great caper for Neeson
* * 1/2 (out of four)
You might think Liam Neeson was tired of saying things like, “I’m coming for you.”
But apparently, he isn’t; and I guess I’m not tired of watching him either, since I keep charging off to movies like “Honest Thief” -- and enjoying them.
Even when they’re utterly preposterous.
By my count, “Honest Thief” is the 13th thriller Neeson has made since emerging as an action star with 2008’s “Taken” -- at the unlikely age of 56. (And it looks like he’s got four or five more in the works.)
Most of these were good-not-great, and Neeson’s latest certainly falls into that category; it has a terrific story-hook, solid action and top-notch performances; but the plot is so full of holes, it might as well be a sieve … or one of those pock-marked screen doors that lets in all the bugs at night.
Neeson plays Tom Dolan, a bank-robber who decides to come clean after falling in love. Planning to plea-bargain for a short sentence, Dolan phones the FBI and tells them where his millions are hidden -- whereupon two lower-level agents decide to seize the cash-stash for themselves: They kill a superior agent and pin the murder on Dolan, who is naturally unhappy about that. And as in so many previous Neeson thrillers, this ex-Marine has the military skills to spread his unhappiness around quite a bit. Especially when the dishonest thieves go after his gal.
A good story, yes -- but that final aspect is one major problem; the minute Tom’s girlfriend happens upon the agents carrying money out of his storage unit, they surely should and would have scrapped their plans; but these guys just keep plowing right ahead, even as their scheme spins wildly out of control.
It’s thankless work to pick apart absurdities in action movies, so I won’t go into more detail -- except to observe that a low point is reached when one police cruiser drives right by Dolan’s widely sought and uniquely marked blue delivery van simply because he pulled into driveway.
Yet “Honest Thief” holds your attention, despite its absolutely off-the-rails plotting. Neeson is as likable as ever, but the movie gets a huge shot in the arm from Kate Walsh as Tom’s love interest. Veteran of such TV shows as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “13 Reasons Why” and the current hit “Umbrella Academy” (as The Handler), Walsh brings a winning blend of warmth, guts and mature beauty, adding much-needed depth to the characterizations here.
Ditto Anthony Ramos (“A Star Is Born,” “Hamilton”) as the more reluctant of the two crooked agents. With his haunted eyes and hesitant affect, he’s just about the best thing in this film. It was also a pleasure to see Jeffrey Donovan play a good-guy for once.
On a minor but interesting note: The early voiceover lists Dolan’s bank-hits, including one in … Williamsport, Pennsylvania! I wondered briefly if different versions of the film had been tailored for individual cities where they were playing.
Not a bad idea.
directed by Mark Williams
Run time: 99 min.
Rated PG-13 for violence and language