Review: ‘Honest Thief’ is criminally good new release in theaters
“Honest Thief” stars Liam Neeson as a former bank robber who tries to come clean after falling in love. When he attempts to return the millions he stole, a pair of crooked FBI agents throw a wrench in his plans to give himself up peacefully in exchange for a reduced sentence and a chance at a new life with the woman he loves.
BAXTER — It’s been said love can move mountains.
In the case of an “Honest Thief,” the love of a good woman can make a notorious and elusive bank robber want to give himself up to the authorities for a reduced sentence and early parole.
Liam Neeson plays Tom Dolan in the action thriller that was released last month. He is a Marine-turned-criminal with a heart of gold — or at least $9 million in appropriated funds.
Dolan decides to turn himself in and return the money, which he stole for the thrill of it, but is double-crossed by greedy FBI agents when he tries to come clean to the love of his life.
Framed for the murder of the agents’ superior, the veteran is forced to go on the run and somehow now must clear his name. He uses his demolition background along the way.
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The corrupt FBI agents Nivens and Hall are played respectively by an unrepentant and increasingly unhinged Jai Courtney and a submissive but morally conflicted Anthony Ramos.
Agent Nivens makes the mistake of going after Dolan’s girlfriend Annie Sumpter, played by Kate Walsh, and Dolan then decides to make things personal by going after the crooked FBI agents.
Dolan first met Sumpter, his love interest or lady friend, a year earlier when he attempted to rent a storage unit from her to hide the cash he stole. The sparks between the two are immediate.
Sumpter is a psychology graduate student and divorcee who is reluctant at first to become involved with Dolan, but a year later after meeting the perfectly paired couple is house hunting.
She eventually witnesses Nivens and Hall taking Dolan’s stolen loot from the storage unit. She is then beaten and left for dead by the pair with Dolan vowing revenge.
The gravelly-voiced, 6-foot-4-inch award-winning Irish actor still manages to be imposing and convincing as an action hero at age 68, judging by the roles he has been offered and played.
Neeson has found late-in-life success cashing in on his physicality in the “Taken” trilogy, “The Commuter,” “Run All Night” and “Non-Stop,” so this marks a return of sorts to the genre.
Despite perhaps not being as spry as in his earlier films, the Golden Globe-nominated actor has the acting chops to carry “Honest Thief” and most may remember the towering thespian as the titular character in Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film “Schindler’s List” from 1993.
There’s plenty of action in “Honest Thief” — car chases, fistfights, explosions, shootouts — filmed competently by the relatively unknown Mark Williams, who has directed only one other film.
"Pulse-pounding! An absolute blast!" See Liam Neeson in #HonestThief, now playing in theatres. Reserve your seat to see all the action on the big screen: https://t.co/wt25pMRztb pic.twitter.com/mSyICUkxSz— Honest Thief (@honestthiefmov) October 23, 2020
What was surprising about the feature film, which Williams also co-wrote with Steve Allrich, is the expository scenes that pepper the motion picture, rated PG-13, that give it its emotional heft.
Dolan explains to a shocked, bewildered and astounded Sumpter how he became a bank robber and the reason he was going straight now — ready to face whatever consequences.
The master burglar who stole from 12 banks in seven states when those financial institutions were closed for business never hurt anyone during the commission of those major felonies.
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The expository scenes elevate the feature film distributed by Briarcliff Entertainment and Open Road Films beyond another entry into the special effects-laden genre Hollywood is known for.
The cat-and-mouse game between Dolan and FBI agent Meyers, played by the versatile Jeffrey Donovan, is reminiscent of another successful on-screen pairing — that of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones in the 1993 movie adaptation of the classic TV series “The Fugitive.”
“Honest Thief” is one of those few movies in which — based on the audience I saw it with — moviegoers cheered and teared up in equal measure, and appeals to many movie tropes of rooting for the underdog or wanting to see those who abuse their power get their comeuppance.
Open Road Films had its biggest success with “Spotlight,” a based-on-true life feature film adaption of the crusading journalists of the Boston Globe’s work that uncovered the major scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic archdiocese.
“Spotlight” won the 2016 Oscar for best picture, but Open Road Films declared bankruptcy two years ago, unfortunately, but relaunched recently with an infusion of funding and “Honest Thief.”
“Honest Thief” is not an Oscar contender, but the film’s pulpy plot would appeal to audiences craving for a new release at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter or Sunset Cinema in Pequot Lakes.
If not for piles of early snow amid autumn, “Honest Thief” could have had an honest shot at being a summer blockbuster for those looking for a little escapism and a good time.
FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .