Since the release of Taken, Liam Neeson’s career trajectory dramatically changed and ever since he has been the unlikely action hero we all wanted, or at least that is what Hollywood want us to believe. The truth is less than half the time Neeson lands one of these predictable thrillers in our cinemas, or this time on Amazon Prime, it does more than provide a 90 minute escape with varying degrees of success. For every The Grey there is a Non-Stop or Taken 3 waiting to remind up that going into one of these films is usually a fruitless exercise. After the relative success of Cold Pursuit, Neeson is back with Honest Thief, a film that reminds you that The Old Man & The Gun exists and you should just watch that instead.
Directed by Mark Williams, Honest Thief tells the story of serial bank robber Tom Dolan (Neeson), who the FBI has playfully dubbed The In & Out Bandit which makes him sound like he really likes robbing burger establishments to sate his insatiable hunger but that is besides the point. When he meets the love of his life Annie (Kate Walsh), an aspiring psychologist working at a self service storage facility he decides he can’t keep running anymore and decides to turn himself in. When he is double crossed by the two agents (Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos) assigned to verify his story he finds himself on the run, alone and desperate to get his, mostly, good name back.
Coming off the emotionally manipulative A Family Man, Williams latest swings away from trying to control the audiences emotions, instead here aiming for emotionless, mild action, the kind of passable distraction that doesn’t offend anyone because it says little of anything at all. Containing a plot that feels like it could have been wrapped up with a simple phone call or just some simple forensics, something that has seemingly become irritating to the modern day screenwriter hoping we all forget how guns work, Honest Thief comes close to the bottom of the Neeson action barrel but manages to scrape a pass through Williams completely adequate but forgettable direction. It doesn’t look pretty or feel anything, it just exists and sometimes that’s perfectly fine for an action film you put on after a long day and a big meal, hoping for a few moments sleep on the sofa before you start another day all over again. Maybe I’m being cynical, you’ll just have to watch to find out.