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Honest Thief

****
2020

‘…a decent time-passer that satisfies in its own way…’

With the abrupt vanishing of Bond from our cinemas, there’s a yawning gap for action fans looming; Liam Neeson vehicle Honest Thief arrives well-timed to cut itself a slightly larger slice of the box-office pie than might have been expected. It’s over a decade since Neeson took full control of the vaunted post of the world’s favourite kick-ass action star in Taken; since then, he’s balanced more serious offerings like Widows with the responsibilities of giving audiences their fix of bone-crunching justice. Neeson is a great actor, to be sure, but he’s also a movie star who has gained a surprising Charles Bronson following who lap up the kind of gritted-teeth persona seen in Non-Stop, Cold Pursuit, Run All Night and A Walk Among The Tombstones. His latest, Honest Thief follows in that old-school tradition, and just about succeeds on its own terms.

Ozark creator Mark Williams’ film doesn’t attempt to change the world, just to engage our emotions and to satisfy; Tom Carter (Neeson) is an honest thief, a socially-aware criminal who organises non-violent heists to balance the books after the death of his hard-working, tax-paying father. An ex Marine, Carter has the skills for any particular job, but he loses his mojo for heists when he falls in love with Annie Sumpter (The Umbrella Academy’s Kate Walsh). Carter decides to return his cash to the authorities, and turn himself in rather than live with the possibility of his relationship being disrupted, but internal corruption within the Boston police force spoils his pitch for an honest life, and Carter is forced to use his bomb-making 101 and other talents to clear his name.

We’ve been here before with Neeson, and the box-office proves that we like it; Neeson has a kindly face, a bear-like physique, and that elusive and super-rare X factor that makes him a bona fide box office draw. He’s well matched with Walsh, who generates sparks with him as romantic interest, plus there’s good support from Terminator star Robert Patrick, Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos as conflicted coppers, and from Jeffery Donovan as Tom Meyers, who is deputised to bring Carter in. We know Meyers is a good guy because he has a dog, and that’s about as deep as the characterisation has to go. Car-chases, fights and explosions follow, well-handled and never taking away from the central pull of the revenge narrative. So while Honest Thief doesn’t offer the all-singing, all-dancing hoopla of Bond, it’s a decent time-passer that satisfies in its own way.

And perhaps you’re on a Neeson-free diet after his self-deprecating comments on his past while promoting Cold Pursuit? Neeson admitted to racist attitudes he’d held a good four decades ago, and his admission shouldn’t have become fuel for cancel-culture. Black Lives Matter, and Neeson’s admission of his own white guilt is an painful but necessary part of that movement’s effects, and one that he should not be shunned for being honest about.

Signature Entertainment presents Honest Thief In UK Cinemas Nationwide 23rd October also Experience it in IMAX

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  1. I’m upping the ante here. This is pretty close to a five-star movie in my opinion and for reasons that have little to do with the Bronson/Bond/Taken action mojo. I thought the tone of this was perfect (especially compared to the likes of Pixie and A Call to Spy which I saw in the cinema on the same day – a true old-fashioned triple bill). From the off with a brilliant meet-cute sparks fly from the two principals. Usually with gangsters it’s the old trope of one last big score before they retire; here, Neeson has already retired, Walsh just doesn’t know it yet. the indifference of the FBI to yet another crackpot confession was excellent and Patrick and Donovan played off each other very well and although characterisation was slim as you might expect for supporting characters I took to the notion of Donovan winning the cute dog as a divorce settlement (and the cute dog was cute). But best of all I thought Neeson and Walsh were completely believable as was Donovan’s underplayed sorrow at the death of his boss. Usually, action actors are prone to over-acting but the director put a lid on that too. The director also avoiding the temptation of a sappy ending such as Donovan letting Neeson go free. kate Walsh is a find on a par with the spunky Sandra Bullock. Given Neeson’s age we are spared watching him try to run, but there are enough fights and chases to fulfill the action quotient. And I am always impressed when a writer has done his homework and is spot-on regarding the mechanics of criminality, in this case demolition.

  2. Nice of you to include that political issue attached to his name nowadays and to allow us to decide for ourselves what we want to make of it, without straight up cancelling him. He’s definitely a talented guy (like Kevin Spacey…) and I’ll probably try this movie out too. Great review.

    • I do believe that being a racist is not a permanent state of affairs; people have to be allowed to change.

  3. I think I was done with Neeson after the first Taken film. Kidnapping and the sex trade were just not things I could let go of and enjoy the action. Then when I realized there was a trilogy of Taken’s, well, I simply stopped caring if a movie had him in it or not. I won’t avoid a movie with him in it, but his name has zero draw for me any more.

  4. I thought Neeson said he wasn’t going to do any more action movies. I guess they keep sucking him back in. It happens when you’re a man with a particular set of skills.

    • This is quite generic, and it’s hard to see why he’d pick it, but it sure does what it says on the tin; delivers action in a satisfying way. I hope he makes more.

  5. I’ve loved all of Neeson’s previous exploits, so I’m pretty much convinced I’m going to enjoy this. Especially of course after yet another well written post such as this one! 😀 Sure it’s more of the same, but well…I don’t care lol 😂😂😂

    • Almost as well written as the doom metal post I was just reading! No, this is route one cinema, low bar, easily cleared, satisfied customers…you’ll be one!

      • Lol😂😂Well honestly route one cinema or not, sometimes I definitely just like to sit back, relax and take a load off with a simple film. Neeson (almost) always delivers with these films😀

        • And in a way, this is the purest Neeson, stripped down, simple, clear in intent; it’s not his best, but somehow it hits the spot required…

          • Haha, well, that’s good to hear😀 I quite liked the Commuter as well. Saw it a few weeks ago, and while it was one of those dime a dozen movies, it was still very cool! 😀

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