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