Liam Neeson’s newest film Honest Thief doesn’t have much to offer. While it’s inoffensive and watchable, it’s also unremarkable and dull. If you’ve seen any of his recent films, you’ve already seen everything this film has to offer.
It’s honestly kind of depressing how Liam Neeson’s career has flatlined in the past two decades. The man started out his film work doing more high profile projects like Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York, Rob Roy, K-19 Widowmaker, Kingdom of Heaven, Batman Begins and Star Wars. Now his entire filmography seems preoccupied with low budget vigilante action flicks like Taken, Unknown and Cold Pursuit.
What I’m saying is I miss the diversity of his early roles. Even in his early years doing small roles in films like Dark Man, Krull, Delta Force, Dirty Harry 5 and Excalibur, his films felt appreciably different. He may show up for smaller roles in interesting films like The LEGO Movie, Silence or The Ballad of Buster Scruggs but his profile has been utterly subsumed by mediocre action flicks.
He’s essentially taken the Harrison Ford/Charles Bronson career path. He starred in large, diverse high profile roles as a young man and grew into a more regular action star role to pay the bills. I’d be less bothered by the choice if his films were better quality but films like Non-Stop, Run All Night and The Commuter are such non-entities as films that they have no shelf life. Few of them have the bravery to be as hilariously terrible as Taken 3.
They’re the worst sort of quality a film can have in this reviewer’s opinion: Forgettable.
As such, I can’t imagine most audiences would ever be “offended” by something like his newest film Honest Thief. The movie is intended as low intensity action to serve as fodder for date nights for stressed out people wanting to get out of the house for an evening. In so far as its that, I could imagine a lot of people I know who’d like it!
Regardless, Honest Thief is a very empty film.
Admittedly the premise is neat. I could see a story like this working in an old fashioned noir thriller. A professional thief decides to turn himself into the FBI for a plea deal so he can start a normal life without the burden of a criminal past breathing down his neck. In doing so, he accidently falls into a plot by two FBI agents who frame him for murder so they can steal his fortune.
It calls to mind a classic premise like DOA or Double Indemnity. Sadly, the film lacks the chops, style, writing quality, visual fidelity and moralism that makes great crime films work. The film is just too lazy and doesn’t put the work into building it’s characters or scenario enough to work past the level of a Cannon film.
Neesan’s performance is okay as he usually is in projects like these. The joke this time around is that his character is perfectly sincere 100% of the time. When his reputation is slandered, he goes on an elaborate revenge spree to expose the truth in the most convoluted way possible to resolve the story in a predictable but earnest way that doesn’t make you hate his character by the end of the story.
Neesan’s charisma is usually what drives the absurdity and cheapness of these projects and grounds it in some level of reality. His natural acting talent keeps what is in the film from looking and sounding TOO ridiculous but one of my buddies who saw it with me was giggling at his absurd sincerity.
Regardless, charisma can’t save lukewarm chase scenes, lukewarm gunfights, lukewarm dramatic stakes and lukewarm supporting performances. Honest Thief was clearly a film people came to do for work and most of the cast didn’t pour their heart out into it.
Sadly, Honest Thief is the only major film coming out before December of this year when we’re supposed to be getting Free Guy, Death on the Nile and Wonder Woman 1984 (supposedly). I was happy to go support it just to help my local theater but if I didn’t have an incentive to help local small businesses it’d be just as inclined to rewatch my copy of Taken at home.