Liam Neeson is back in his chosen role of the armed justice fighter for many years, only with the exception of this HONEST THIEF is not coming to the cinema for known pandemic reasons. We’ll reveal why that’s a shame in our review.
OT: Honest Thief (USA 2020)
When the notorious bank robber Tom (Liam Neeson) falls head over heels in love with Annie (Kate Walsh), he wants to give up his risky job for good. He decides to turn himself in to the FBI to negotiate a deal for himself: he offers to return his $9 million loot in exchange for a clean slate and impunity. After contacting Tom, the FBI initially believes that they are trying to play a prank on them. Instead of experienced colleagues, the young agents Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos) are assigned to the case. When they find out that the caller is actually the long-wanted master thief Tom, they can hardly believe their luck. Because his money could be your ticket to a better life. A cat-and-mouse game for millions of dollars begins, in which the boundaries between good and evil become increasingly blurred…
It was almost two years ago that Hollywood star Liam Neeson was threatened (“Non-Stop”) to fall from grace from one day to the next. The reason for this: A press interview with the British newspaper The Independent about his then new film “Hard Powder”. When asked whether he had ever had thoughts of revenge – in keeping with the film’s theme – he openly answered the question in the affirmative and reported how a friend once told him about her rape. At that time, he immediately felt a great desire for revenge and asked his acquaintance what the perpetrator looked like – and spent the next few days roaming the streets in the hope that the opportunity would arise to take the law into his own hands. Neeson explained that he was so blinded by hate that he feared doing immense harm to the next man who crossed his path and had the same color as the perpetrator. Controversy immediately followed: they didn’t want to tolerate a Neeson who behaved like his film roles, especially since Neeson’s retelling of his desire for revenge had a racist overtone – if not worse – due to how much he emphasized the perpetrator’s black skin color. Neeson’s public reputation already seemed sealed. But after a remorseful declaration that he had now learned from this matter and that he was deeply ashamed of his thoughts at the time, along with an almost complete withdrawal from the public eye (the outstanding press tours for “Hard Powder” were canceled shortly after the interview was published) The general public seems to have now forgiven Neeson. And this faux pas doesn’t seem to have had any impact on his job as an actor either: since “Hard Powder,” Neeson has already appeared in four other productions. Four more are being planned and filmed. The fact that his latest film “Honest Thief”, in which Neeson once again shines in his trademark role of the aging action warhorse, is not released in the cinema, but directly on VOD and three months later on DVD and Blu-ray, is once again due to the well-known pandemic -Due to circumstances.
Bank robber Tom (Liam Neeson) had a slightly different idea of turning himself in to the police…
At first glance, “Honest Thief” fits perfectly into Neeson’s recent acting portfolio. Since he first took on the role of the self-sacrificing avenger Bryan Mills in 2008, who takes on the kidnappers of his beloved daughter in “96 Hours,” the Irish-born actor has had a subscription to such roles. “96 Hours” was followed by two sequels – and films such as “Run all Night”, “Non-Stop”, “The Commuter”, “Unknown Identity” and “Rest in Peace – A Walk among the Tombstones”. With his physique, which is still impressive even in his old age, and his striking, grim facial features, he is usually seen as an armed fighter for justice, even though all of the productions mentioned cannot escape a certain interchangeability. This makes it all the more interesting to see Neeson appear again after “Hard Powder” as a morally ambivalent character, especially for mainstream cinema. Director and co-author Mark Williams leaves out the fact that the bank robber Tom, whom he embodies, is the most popular figure in the film (“The happiness of the moment”) although no doubt. But the “Ozark” creator, unlike his colleague David Lowery in “A Crook and a Gentleman”, does not turn his title character into such a gentleman gangster, but rather emphasizes the callousness of his actions at the beginning (although they are never a human being physically harmed, so that one is not encouraged to sympathize with a dangerous, violent criminal) and later allows him to strike again and again, even if it was only partially necessary.
“With his physique, which is still captivating even in his old age, and his striking, grim facial features, Liam Neeson is usually seen as an armed fighter for justice, although his most recent action productions cannot escape a certain interchangeability.”
Liam Neeson embodies both sides of his character believably: the cunning in-and-out bandit, as he was called by the press due to the effectiveness of his bank robberies, suits him just as well as the reformed lover after meeting his girlfriend Annie not just wants to get out of the business (“John Wick” sends his regards!), but even wants to atone for his actions by turning himself in to the police. It is above all this awareness of his wrong actions that positions Tom more as a hero than an anti-hero – but even if you as a viewer quickly understand that this man is essentially one of the good guys, it sometimes pulls you out of the supposed “one.” Criminal turns out to be remorseful” idyll, how physically he acts (not only!) against his opponents and what radical methods he uses to ensure justice here. No matter how often you can adopt the protagonist’s “repay like with like” mentality: at the latest when he blows up a house after prior notice, or ambushes an investigator and brutally beats him down, even though he actually only deals with him for a short time wanted to speak, “Honest Thief” demands a lot of goodwill and empathy from its audience in order to be able to understand Tom’s actions. As a result, such moments appear to be inserted later for the sake of action content, rather than smoothly integrated into the film. With the exception of scenes like this, most of the time in “Honest Thief” things aren’t that rough.
Everything for love: Tom wants to grow old with Annie (Kate Walsh).
Even though we would almost have preferred to see a film about how a bank robber who turns himself in tries to convince the police of his true existence (after many other people have already pretended to be an in-and-out bandit in the previous weeks), it’s fitting the subsequent escalation once again fits perfectly into the main actor’s cinematic prey scheme. When, during his confession, he comes across not sincere cops but rather shady cops, Tom’s sense of justice is suddenly needed more than ever. What then follows is a routinely presented (action) thriller that captures Neeson’s perspective as well as that of the criminal investigators in almost equal proportions. This is due to the sometimes messy script by Mark Williams in cooperation with Steve Allrich (“Bad Karma”) It’s not always entirely clear why this or that moment actually made it into the film. The fact that one of the cops takes his dog with him on patrol and has a custody dispute over the four-legged friend on the phone grows from a running gag to subplot size – and has nothing to contribute to the event itself, is an attempt to show a sympathetic side to the investigator missed, but thought way too simplistic. Apart from that, “Honest Thief” appeals in its minimalistic presentation, in which ultimately the only important thing is that the hunt by police officers for a bank robber is simply reversed here. You don’t need to know anything more about the story.
“At the latest when Tom blows up a house after prior notice, or ambushes an investigator and brutally beats him down, even though he actually only wanted to speak to him briefly, “Honest Thief” demands a lot of good will and empathy from its audience to be able to understand his actions.”
Unfortunately, “Honest Thief” hardly stands out in terms of staging. Cinematographer Shelly Johnson (“Greyhound – Battle of the Atlantic”) didn’t come up with any visual extras for the photography of the action thriller, but instead films the events in an unspectacular way. This means that you are spared a storm of cuts and blurry chases, meaning you can keep track of things at all times. But where other cameramen provide additional dynamism with their work, “Honest Thief” remains pale. So Liam Neeson’s campaign of revenge has to speak for itself more than ever.
Conclusion: “Honest Thief” is a successful example of “Liam Neeson ensures justice” action cinema, but it would have needed a more interesting production in order to remain permanently in your memory.
“Honest Thief” is available on VOD from January 28th and on DVD and Blu-ray from April 1st.