“HONEST THIEF” THRUSTS LIAM NEESON INTO FAMILIAR TERRITORY
A Film Review by Tim Riley
“HONEST THIEF” Rated PG-13 Honestly, Liam Neeson is closing in on being a septuagenarian but he appears to have the strength, energy and vitality of a person at least two decades younger, judging by his ongoing choice of action leading man roles that took off during his middle-age.In “Honest Thief” Neeson’s Tom Carter, a former Marine with experience in demolition and land mines, is a highly skilled safecracker who targets small-town banks that maintain vaults that are not exactly state-of-the-art.
Methodical in his approach, Tom seems to have patterned his heists on the modus operandi of the 1971 Lloyd’s Bank robbery in central London that was popularized in the 2008 thriller “The Bank Job” starring Jason Statham. In similar fashion, Tom locates empty space next to the bank, drills through the walls to gain access to air-conditioning vents, and drops into the bank unnoticed to crack the vault, doing all this work over a long weekend.
Stealing $9 million from 12 banks in seven states in about eight years, Tom became a legend dubbed “The In-and-Out Bandit” by the media, a moniker that he abhors because it makes him sound like a random crook. To counter the press narrative, Tom lets it be known that exercising precision in his work is a badge of honor. He probably thought it best not to be confused with the speed of a fast-food burger chain.
Pride in his craft is something that will be important to Tom when he decides to turn his life around by finding true love and settling down in a middle-class suburban lifestyle.That day comes when he meets Annie (Kate Walsh) at the Boston self-storage facility where he stashes not just boxes of cash but the kind of household stuff usually abandoned and discovered in an episode of “Storage Wars.”
After some flirting at the storage facility, the story jumps to a year later when Tom and Annie have solidified their relationship to the point that Tom wants them to live together after he finds a new home. In the meantime, Tom has not divulged his past to Annie, but he wants to come clean and start a new life. Thus, he reaches out to the FBI with an offer to turn over the purloined loot in return for a lighter prison sentence.
FBI Agents Baker (Robert Patrick) and Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan) take the call but believe Tom is just another kook offering up a false confession they’ve heard many times before. They turn the case over to younger Agents Hall (Anthony Ramos) and Nivens (Jai Courtney) to investigate. Holed up in a Boston hotel room, Tom waits a few days for Hall and Nivens to show up and hands over the key to his storage unit. The savvy bank robber should have had a clue that things were about to go south. Lacking any kind of moral compass, Nivens seduces his family man partner Hall to reluctantly go along with a ruse to keep the millions for themselves, and it gets worse when they able to frame Tom for a murder.
Of course, Tom has a few tricks up his sleeve that will keep him from being outwitted by a pair of unscrupulous agents that have not carefully thought through their nefarious scheme.Being fingered for a crime he did not commit is not something the honest thief takes lightly from a pair of immoral lawmen who are too incompetent to cover their tracks. Just like in “Taken,” Tom ominously tells the nasty Agent Nivens “I’m coming for you.”Meanwhile, Tom is faced with confessing his criminal past to Annie, hoping she’ll understand that not only his love for her but his willingness to sacrifice his freedom would result in absolution for not being honest with her from the start.
Unfortunately, Annie is placed in danger from the fact that Hall and Nivens are aware that her storage facility computer has footage of the two agents packing the boxes of cash in their government vehicle. While the honest crook Tom ends up playing a deadly cat-and-mouse game with the corrupt federal agents, including the obligatory car chase sequences, Agent Meyers starts to get the idea that something is amiss.
The serious tone of this action thriller is leavened by the wisecracking Agent Meyers and the amusing running gag of being accompanied on duty with the cute little canine inherited in his recent divorce. Subject to a manhunt and with Annie ending up in the hospital, Tom might ordinarily be cornered by the law before clearing his name of murder, but then you can guess how everything is likely to get resolved in his favor.To be completely frank, “Honest Thief” is B-movie grade material that is disposable entertainment but it is what I have come to expect and candidly enjoy ever since the “Taken” trilogy offered an action venue for Liam Neeson to exploit.