Fans of Liam Neeson’s late career revenge thrillers know to wait for that payoff line, which may vary in verbiage and accent, but never in meaning. Here’s the version in “Honest Thief,” delivered in a “not hiding me accent any longer” brogue.
“Agent Nivens,” he growls, “Aahm comin’ fer Yoouuuu.”
And there it is, that moment we’ve anticipated after which we can relax, now that the Big Man from Eire has got THAT out of the way.
Pretty much every other moment in “Honest Thief” is expected, too, alas. That’s another characteristic in Neeson’s “man of violence” movie dotage. The only twists to this — little character quirks and the like — are just dopey and off-topic, the stuff to make an action fan wonder “What’s up with that?”
Neeson plays Tom Carter, a “retired bank robber” who has let the love of a good woman (Kate Walsh of “Grey’s Anatomy” and the Netflix series “Emily in Paris) make him want to “come clean” and pay his debt to society.
But the FBI agents he’s negotiating giving himself up to let their heads be turned by the big haul of cash involved. Well, some of them. Robert Patrick is the honest agent who turns out to be the odd man out.
So Tom’s given up his cover and his cash and is on the lam anew in Boston, wanted for murdering a Federal agent. “Clear my name” is his objective. Protect “Annie” (Walsh) is another.
Staying alive while Agent Nivens (Jai Courtney, a fine villain) and Agent Hall (Anthony Ramos) hunt him, and their unsuspecting boss (Jefferey Donovan of “Burn Notice” and “Fargo”) supervises the search will be trickiest of all.
Neeson always gives fair value in such roles, but the problem with a film like “Honest Thief” is you’ve got to forget the “Taken” movies and every variation of those he’s made in the past 15 years for any of this to feel fresh. He’s always got “particular skills.”
The script is workmanlike, with the odd ridiculous moment on its way to the inevitable.
A stand-out failing of “Honest Thief,” which has visceral shoot-outs and a novel car chase, is the supporting cast. Walsh’s reactions to most everything this “good man” in her life does defies belief. We look at her face and listen to her voice for some hint this extraordinary and extraordinarily violent turn of events will rattle her.
Nah. She’s read all the way to the end of the script. Never let’s us see her alarmed.
Donovan is emasculated by giving his character a Shih Tzu he dotes on and takes to the office, etc. He’s good in the action scene he’s hurled into, and befuddled looking the rest of the time. Like Walsh, we know he’s better than this.
As for Neeson, who squeezes in the rare Euro or indie comedy or drama to remind us the talent and that’s still there, he’s fast approaching the point where we don’t know he’s better than this. Sooner or later, he’s going to give us what Walsh and Donovan do here — the appearance of an actor showing up for a check and not even pretending otherwise. ‘
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong violence, crude references and brief strong language
Cast: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos and Robert Patrick.
Credits: Directed by Mark Williams, script by Steve Allrich, Mark Williams. An Open Road release.
Running time: 1:39