Genre: Action and Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.
Release Date: October 16th, 2020 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Mark Williams Actors: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos, Robert Patrick
hen Tom Carter (Liam Neeson) strolls into an Aurora Self Storage facility, he meets manager Annie Wilkins (Kate Walsh), with whom an instant chemistry brews. A year later, they’re moving in together, after Tom finishes off the negotiations on the purchase of a luxurious house. “There’s something else I need to tell you … ”
Unfortunately, Tom has a history … and a conscience. He’s the so-called In-and-Out Bandit, who has robbed 12 banks in 7 states, taking about $9 million over the course of 8 years, without leaving any clues and maintaining complete anonymity. Hoping for a fresh start with Annie, he calls up the FBI to turn himself in, return the money, and face a pre-negotiated, limited sentence. Agent Sam Baker (Robert Patrick) fields the call, but remains skeptical, considering that several other people have previously, fraudulently admitted to being the notorious robber. Secondary agents Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos) take their time, but eventually show up days later for a cursory interview, harboring the same dubiety of their superior. But even if they can prove that Carter is the real deal, his specific conditions of leniency – a maximum of two years in a minimum security prison near Boston, and visitation rights – might be harder to square away. And then there’s the issue of the $9 million, which could prove to be even stickier to keep track of.
The basic setup is completely unbelievable. And an early twist is just as outrageous. Yet there’s something undeniably amusing about seeing Neeson do what he does best, once again inhabiting the subdued tough-guy role that reinvigorated his career, beginning with “Taken” in 2009. Handy with hand-to-hand combat, dependable with weapons and vehicles, and cool under pressure, his familiar persona is the kind that never seems to be in any real danger. And there’s a calming yet exciting quality in witnessing the exploits of a level-headed everyman with a checkered past and some supremely formidable skills lurking behind an even temper. “I’m coming for you … ”
Unfortunately, Neeson’s character design is the only tried-and-true one here; the supporting roles, ranging from the gruff FBI elder to his undistinguished underling (Jeffrey Donovan, who has an unnecessary amount of backstory) to the uncompromisingly corrupt villains to the damsel-in-distress, fail to muster any creativity. The love story is equally as flimsy, but Tom’s history as a minesweeper and a remorseful, quasi-vigilante bank robber is a touch more convincing. He’s that terribly typical one-man-army with a heart of gold, yet few actors are cut out for this level of repetition while still being watchable.
The meat of the entertainment value arrives after Carter sheds the baggage of loved ones, restitution, and dreams of a normal life, however, resulting in “Honest Thief” expectedly wandering down the path of adventure and violence. There are fewer chases and stunts than in previous iterations of Neeson’s suspense formula, as the star steadily grows less believable in these types of athletic fugitive scenarios (for example, he effortlessly scales a fence, but the maneuver is shown at its completion, avoiding an obvious double and any real exertion), but his acting still carries every bit of the growling defiance and unwavering resolve that paints these personas as credible men-of-action. The picture may be ordinary and forgettable (save for a few mind games involving explosives), but in the realm of low-budget, second-tier, boilerplate (or periodically sloppy) cops-and-robbers thrillers, the pacing isn’t bad and the finale is suitable (save for the insistence on nagging financial and judicial reparations, along the lines of “Remember the Night” or “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” which threaten to negate the fun of vigilante fantasy).
– Mike Massie