Honest Thief: Liam Neeson flick has a high bullet count but it's low on thrills
THE reinvention of Ballymena-born actor Liam Neeson as a grizzled action man gathered momentum in 2008 with the opening chapter of the Taken franchise.
Cast as a former CIA operative whose daughter is kidnapped during a trip to Paris, the Oscar-nominated star of Schindler’s List gave fair warning of his knuckle-bruising intent in a telephone call with one abductor.
“I will look for you, I will find you… and I will kill you,” he growled in that distinctive baritone purr.
He was a man of his word.
In Mark Williams’s generic thriller, Neeson is cast to muscular type as a brilliant bank robber, who is willing to turn his back on a life of crime to put down roots with an unsuspecting sweetheart.
The adrenaline rush of a thief’s redemption in the name of love is a tantalising prospect.
Regrettably, Williams and fellow scriptwriter Steve Allrich aren’t seriously committed to fleshing out the relationship between their conflicted hero and his girlfriend.
Instead, they invest heavily in stunt sequences, which boast a ridiculously high bullet count for a disappointingly low return of pulse-quickening thrills.
Bank robber Tom Carter (Neeson) is calm under pressure, drawing on his expertise as a bomb disposal specialist in the Marines.
He coolly executes heists over holiday weekends without revealing his identity, amassing a little over $9 million in cash from 12 banks in seven states.
During a visit to Aurora Self Storage to rent a locker, Tom meets Annie Sumpter (Kate Walsh) and falls head over heels in love.
He contemplates a normal life with Annie and decides to confess his sins to FBI Agent Sam Baker (Robert Patrick), promising the return of the stolen money in exchange for a reduced sentence of no more than two years in a minimum-security prison close to Boston.
Two members of Baker’s team, agents John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Ramon Hall (Anthony Ramos), probe Tom’s assertion that he is the In And Out Bandit.
Once the corrupt FBI agents have compelling evidence of Tom’s misdeeds – a cardboard box full of cash – they greedily confiscate the stolen property for their retirement funds and prepare to cover their tracks.
Honest Thief is hardwired to underline Neeson’s screen brand as a no-nonsense man of few words and outlandish actions.
Walsh is short-changed as the two-dimensional love interest, who needlessly puts herself in harm’s way, while Jeffrey Donovan channels Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive as an honourable law man on their tail.
Plotting is linear, relentlessly screeching between set-pieces until justice is served in an underpowered final act.
HONEST THIEF (15, 98 mins) Action/Thriller/Romance. Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Anthony Ramos, Jeffrey Donovan, Robert Patrick. Director: Mark Williams.
Released: October 23 (UK & Ireland)