We all know the cliched remark about how Liam Neeson is now typecast for action thrillers, but many forget that this is not the first time Neeson has fallen into this hole. Ask anyone around the early 2000’s and they would tell you that Neeson always played mentor roles but go beyond that and people would say he was a very serious actor in very serious roles. Since the runaway success Taken that started his round 2 of being typecast, he has been criticised for starring in action films that all feel the same. Honest Thief unfortunately continues this criticism and doesn’t do anything to simmer the heat.
Whether it is typecast of not, when we see Liam Neeson in action shooting and fighting bad guys, it is still good to see after all these years. the action, while nothing to marvel over, it is at least somewhat entertaining to see. I think these films know the popularity of Liam Neeson as this hero who will stop to nothing in the minds of it’s audience and that was it is using to its advantage to elicit something out of its audience.
Liam Neeson plays Tom, a bank robber who after meeting Annie (Kate Walsh) decides to live the honest life and attempts to turn himself in, but two FBI agents Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Ramon (Anthony Ramos) see the opportunity to take the money Tom stole for themselves. The two agents dynamic is nothing new and for a while, I felt that the film was going for the generic route with these two as well, but the film does give a bit of emotional weight to Baker who is a family man and is pressured by Nivens. At least it was willing to give at least a bit of depth to the antagonists, but on the whole there are still a number of flaws that sucks out this sensation of depth. I do like the idea that Annie isn’t a typical damsel in distress type character and she at one-point puts up a fight herself so along with Ramon I think it’s safe to say that the film is at least aware of the traps the action genre has, but it still falls into them regardless.
By this point in his career, you’d imagine that Neeson is tired of doing films like this to the point where he doesn’t seem to care about the details of the story, his screen presence gives this all away. As previously said, he does make the generic elements work to a degree, but you can see it in his eyes that nothing in the script gives his that wow factor to give it his all in some scenes.
At the end of the day, Liam Neeson is playing the same character he’s been playing ever since Taken, he just has a different name. It’s the same family man who goes above and beyond to save his loved ones with a background that makes him an expert in gunfight and hand to hand combat. When I look back at the big action stars with a similar path, sure they go well with popcorn, but some of these films broke boundaries and changed the genre we know it today, how many Liam Neeson action film can say they’ve done that?
There is a lot of screenplay black magic in Honest Thief, there are several instances where moments occur off-screen for moments that would take a long time, but for movie time a few moments. For instance, the final showdown is jam-packed with these moments and you’re constantly questioning how the characters found the time to do the things they do, if I mentioned specifics, I’d be getting into the spoiler territory. Something else I found pretty suspicious about the cinematography is when there is a big moment in the film that would seem strange if it wasn’t for one important detail, the film makes sure to tell you the scene makes sense by lingering on that important detail for way too long.
On the whole, Honest Thief is just as disappointing as every other Liam Neeson action film since Taken, and having had a think about the other films like Non Stop and The Commuter, I’m sorry to say that Honest thief is the blandest of them all. The action, while entertaining, isn’t push to the limit of becoming a spectacle and I can see it in the performance of Liam Neeson that he’s getting tired of doing these films to, I’m guessing, earn his paycheck for a year. It’s just disappointing to me that so many directors have come up with these great sounded premises and turn them into your run of the mill popcorn film. I think everyone has developed a tiny, sweet spot to see Liam Neeson kick ass, Taken was such a huge surprise to many people, but we want to see him kick ass in an exciting way that replicates why we were so quick to accept him as an action star.
Final Result: 3/10 – Poor
Have you seen Honest Thief? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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