Honest Thief – PG-13 – 1 hr 39 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Friday October 16, 2020
AMC Lakewood 12 – Lakewood, Washington
#36 new movie seen in theater in 2020
Is there any such thing as an “honest” thief? Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Some may see that kind of thievery as noble, but it’s not honest.
Here we see calm, yet dangerous guy Liam Neeson playing Tom, a marine demolition specialist, that gets out of service, filled with PSTD and faced with various personal tragedies that compel him to steal from banks. Not for the money, mind you, but the rush. The first bank is a revenge job, the others, well, they are to the tune of $9 million in adrenaline.
He meets Annie, a spicy manager of a storage place played red head Kate Walsh. She seeks to rent him a not-so-“smelly” storage unit to not so covertly stash the cash in moving boxes, but this begins a year of romance that we don’t get to see, but can imagine must be immensely fulfilling to turn conflicted thief into a hopeless romantic.
Ahh yes, fast forward to a year later and it’s time for Tom to come clean. He’s going to turn himself into the FBI. The In and Out Bandit, as the cops and media have coined, wants to give all the money he never spent back to the feds in exchange for a minimum sentence. After all, nobody ever got physically hurt by his elaborate heists, The In and Out Bandit was merely stealing money “that never belonged to anyone.”
While Tom tries to turn himself in, of course it needs to be to two corrupt feds, wanting to steal the money and cover up the crime. Good thing the Terminator (Robert Patrick) is the boss. Or maybe not so much, once we see how our steely-eyed morph from the early 90s classic handles the mundane tasks of assigning bored federal officers to check out if Tom is the real In and Out Bandit or just another glory seeker.
If you’re saying to yourself, “come on” then this movie might not be for you.
However, if you’re like, OK, this is bizarre story-wise but somewhat trying to be different, then this might be the ticket for you to ride. In some respects, the movie gets a little better than the story, but mostly it doesn’t. It’s popcorn escapism, with at times some decent dramatic acting.
What I liked about this story were the more subtle things that the actors tried to do with an odd script and the various character sketches. Also the fact that we’re seeing actors we know from other movie and TV roles like that guy from Burn Notice (Jeffery Donovan) as the direct supervisor, underneath Terminator Robert Patrick. Burn Notice Donovan roams around in Sherlock Holmes mode with his cute dog that he got in the divorce (she took the house instead of the dog!), trying to figure out whether or not Liam Neeson is innocent or guilty of doing much worse than the In and Out Bandit.
There’s also Addison Montgomery from Grey’s Anatomy, Kate Walsh, as a not so convincing love interest for Neeson’s character Tom. Their kisses have as much passion as family members giving each other a welcoming, yet uncomfortable looking to others peck on the lips. Sadly, Neeson has almost zero romantic chemistry with Walsh. He displayed more in Taken. We’ll get to Neeson’s performance shortly, but we really need to talk more about Annie’s origins and this alleged tryst.
Seriously, this is the macguffin sans sidetrack romance to keep us worrying about what happens to sardonic, yet sweet Annie. Might have been more believable if we got some flashback moments or real time scenes that showed how these two became lovers, but hey, we don’t need that sort of realism. Maybe that has already been done on a Lifetime movie a thousand times, but viewers need some more meat to get emotionally invested in these two as a couple. As it stands, it’s just a reason for Tom to want to turn himself in, but it could have been any of a dozen other reasons with as much emotional zeal.
Another “come on!” note: is her character’s name. Is it really Annie Wilkes?
I did a doubletake on the name, because that’s the famous psycho character from Misery played by Kathy Bates.
Maybe the writer wanted to draw viewers out of the story or just pay homage to a famous character name, but it’s distracting because the Annie in Honest Thief is literally nothing like the Annie Wilkes from Misery. If Annie had more to do in the movie than be at risk from one of the more psycho corrupt cops, that could have taken this story off the rails.
At last we come to Liam Neeson’s performance. It’s his Taken role, only with the violence taken out.
It’s logical, but vexing from an entertainment standpoint, that Neeson is far less violent here and trying to be more cerebral. His character ultimately left me feeling like all that money must have felt just sitting in boxes collecting dust. Why won’t anybody spend me, move me around, buy something with me? Why am I just sitting in Annie Wilkes managed storage facility, but hey it doesn’t smell in here, at least.
Those poor, lonely $9 million bones.
Curiously, our initial just left the theater reaction was this was better than Neeson just going off and taking revenge. You can tell in the video below that we enjoyed it, but at the same time a guiltier pleasure would have been watching Neeson go Russell Crowe Unhinged, fiercely using his demolitions background for cunning revenge. I won’t spoil ultimately what happens with the character or the resolution of the movie, but gave it points for not just giving us another Taken. The trailer, however, promised at least some of that type of movie (Neeson’s character says a la Taken, “I’m coming for you”).
Warts aside, we felt entertained as we left the theater. On that scale alone, this is a recommended movie. It wasn’t a great movie and the rating we gave just leaving the theaters was higher than the star rating I’m leaving in the full text review here. I took away a half star after thinking over if the movie was that good. It wasn’t.
It just felt good watching familiar faces in a story that isn’t too cliched. It was entertaining enough, even if it’s not quite the movie the trailer promises. We got our money’s worth. We gave it the same rating as Unhinged, but upon reflection, I think Unhinged at least emotionally is better. That film has several “come on!” moments too, but it maintains tension throughout the film. Russell Crowe is a better actor with a mediocre script than Liam Neeson, at least when comparing these two newer films in the theaters.
Honest Thief just bounces us around a little too much, making us mad at the police — like the world needs any more stories like that in these times — puzzled at times by story and character development, and yet surprised enough at times to keep watching. There are a few lingering parts where the story could have been tightened up more, but overall it does mostly what it sets out to do: keep us entertained. It’s not going to win any awards and it will be forgotten not long after watching, but it’s good enough. Just be warned, Neeson fans, if you’re looking for another Taken, you best rewatch that instead.
Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️