Mladen and Del review ‘Honest Thief’
“Honest Thief” Starring hot Kate Walsh, old Liam Neeson, decent bad guy Jai Courtney, remorseful Anthony Ramos, skeptical but open-minded Jeffrey Donovan and others. Directed by Mark Williams. 99 minutes. PG-13. Amazon Prime.
“Honest Thief” is an honest-to-goodness mediocre movie. It pulls a C+. The film’s woes in a moment. I’m obliged to provide a summary first to sedate Del’s urge to nag me about it.
Liam Neeson as Tom Carter falls in love with perfect woman Annie Wilkins played by Kate Walsh. Carter decides that the relationship will suffer unless he comes clean with his dark past, which ain’t all that dark if you ask me. Stealing from the rich to keep some for yourself and give some to the poor is OK with me.
Anyway, Tom tries to confess to the FBI that he’s a long-wanted bank robber and cut a deal to serve less time in the hoosegow so that he can spend more time with Annie. As The Fixx will tell you, one thing leads to another and, pretty soon, Tom and Annie are on the run from a couple of corrupt FBI special agents trying to steal the money that he robbed from assorted financial institutions.
Toss in guilt trips, a murder or two and attempted murders, violations of the oath to serve and protect, EOD expertise, lots of PG-13 gun play, and a healthy house-destroying detonation and you’ve got a pretty standard tale of a somewhat bad man, a thief, attempting to do the right thing, be honest.
Casting old Neeson as an adroit, strong brawler and an ace car driver provokes one of my biggest movie-going peeves. Action films cannot be propelled by aged dudes. And, Neeson is gaunt to boot, so it’s impossible for him to use sheer bulk as the source of a powerful punch. I’m somewhat old and would, no doubt, break many a bone falling from a two-story window whether I’m locked in fisticuffs with a Bureau baddie or not. Hell, I’m not even convinced Tom would be able to lift the uber-drill he uses to break into bank vaults made of thick steel.
Even more of an impossibility is that someone as fine as Annie would fall for a semi-mummy-looking fellow such as Tom. That said, Walsh does a good job making the movie flow. She’s convincing as a girlfriend who goes from disbelieving and troubled that her beau is a bank robber to a willing accomplice intrigued by Tom’s techno-skills.
In fact, it’s getting to the point where I’ll consider watching a movie starring Walsh even if the genre is crap. For example, she was very good in “Grey’s Anatomy.” My daughter made me watch the show.
“Honest Thief” knows what it is. A passable film that’ll draw a sufficient number of viewers to make some bank. I imagine it also took no more than a week to make, freeing Neeson to shoot another film where he can pretend to be as strong as the 30-year-olds he’s fighting.
I would make a lousy Robin Hood because I am not as sanguine as Mladen about stealing from the rich to give to the poor. I thought the whole point of capitalism was to let people come up with a great idea, work their ass off, sell it for billions of dollars and enjoy the financial fruits of their labor.
Being rich doesn’t mean a person is evil. Breaking the rules and stealing – those things are evil. So with that thought I segue into my critique of “Honest Thief”: It was a decent enough action movie based on a ridiculous premise.
Throughout my viewing of I heard a voice inside telling me, “This is ridiculous. Nobody but NOBODY would behave like this.”
And by “this” I mean what Mladen wrote: “Liam Neeson as Tom Carter falls in love with perfect woman Annie Wilkins played by Kate Walsh. Dolan decides that the relationship will suffer unless he comes clean with his dark past … Tom tries to confess to the FBI that he’s a long-wanted bank robber and cut a deal to serve less time in the hoosegow so that he can spend more time with Annie. As The Fixx will tell you, one thing leads to another and, pretty soon, Tom and Annie are on the run from a couple of corrupt FBI special agents trying to steal the money that he robbed from assorted financial institutions.”
What Mladen omitted in his otherwise acceptable summary was the reason for Tom Carter’s bank-robbing spree. It was to avenge a miscarriage of justice inflicted on his father by a bank. I’m rolling my eyes as I write this.
THAT is a ridiculous premise.
What follows is a corny, formulaic beat-’em-up that explodes every house, falls off every ledge and lands every roundhouse you would expect from a man with a particular set of skills. Liam Neeson gimps his way through the plot with respectable dexterity – I mean, the guy is 68 years old, which is only two years older than yours truly, and I would not want to have my teeth kicked by anybody, much less a corrupt FBI agent. But I would agree with Mladen that maybe he’s a tad long in the tooth for those kinds of roles. To go on would be a mis-taken.
I enjoyed the action and I thought Kate Walsh and Jai Courtney were the standout actors. Neeson was his usual post-AARP good guy with a pacemaker. The characters were props for the action, however, and that’s what I remember best from “Honest Thief.”
Mladen gave the movie a C+. I’ll be a little more generous and say it’s a B-. The unbelievable premise knocks it down from a solid B.
Mladen Rudman is a former newspaper reporter and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former newspaper editor and author.
“Taken 3” Starring Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, and Maggie Grace. Directed by Olivier Megaton. 109 minutes. Rated PG-13
There were three of us and we wanted to see three different movies. The candidates were “Blackhat,” “The Imitation Game” and “Taken 3.” Guess which “mindless entertainment” prevailed?
Watching 63-year-old Liam Neeson beat up half of Albania isn’t mindless entertainment for this geezer, who remembers playing tennis from dawn to dusk, and could no sooner do that now than pass a high school algebra test. It’s validation that if I really, really wanted to do it, I could lose the gut, get back into shape, and menace the bad guys in ways that don’t involve flashing my AARP card in their faces.
That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
In “Taken 3” we return to the world of Bryan Mills, an ex-covert ops specialist who’s family has been favored by kidnappers. This time the action takes place in a version of Los Angeles that does not feature traffic-choked freeways and cynical journalists – clearly we’re talking science fiction. Mills is framed for a murder he didn’t commit and after beating up a sizeable contingent of cops he escapes to a bolthole where he’s able to refresh, replenish, and re-apply the Grecian Formula. Cars crash, fists fly and guns blaze. Somehow Neeson comes out of it with nary an adult diaper mussed.
The first act is excruciatingly slow, prompting Mladen to ask if “Taken 3” was a documentary. No, Mladen. It’s a frightening representation of most people’s lives. But I agree to an extent – I’m tired of the soap opera theatrics between Mills, his ex-wife and her current husband. And I hope the daughter, now enrolled in college, is majoring in something other than Being a Victim because her sullen helplessness grates on my nerves.
Acts two and three are where “Taken” earns its stripes as “mindless entertainment.” The action is almost non-stop as Neeson gallomps (not “gallop” … he’s too old for that these days) from one cliffhanger to the next with Forest Whitaker in tepid pursuit. The Big Reveal is telegraphed fairly early in the story, and one plot element fails spectacularly – I won’t say what except it involves the functionality of a certain device.
Neeson still rocks as Bryan Mills but I’d say “Taken 3” is the weakest of the three. Everyone and everything is limned in a kind of drabness that suggests the vein has been mined, and it’s time to move on.
If the menu calls for mindless entertainment, “Taken 3” might by worth a taste. Be sure to ask for the senior citizen discount.
Del has done you a disservice. “Taken 3” isn’t mindless entertainment. For me it was very thought-provoking as I developed the list to mock the movie.
“Taken 3” is partly a sensitive chick flick-like film. The director gives you lots of tight face shots that amply demonstrate it’s better to be young than old. Less wrinkles. Better teeth. Sparklier eyes. Megaton infects a large chunk of the film with ordinary life dialogue to try to force viewers into liking the characters. What? Was he thinking the Academy would give him the nod with a best director nomination for an Oscar? No. Megaton has created a megaflop.
The movie also goes to great lengths to explain itself. I counted at least three plot summaries or, maybe more accurately, plot-gap fillers. And, unfortunately, the ending suggests that “Taken 4” is on the way.
- A decent supporting villain … until the end. First, the Russian thug, a former Soviet Union special operations soldier, is unable to hit Mills at close range with a submachine gun. When the Russian finally drops Mills – apparently the old man just got tired running from bullets that always missed – what happens? The Russian gets talkie instead of shooting the American several times in the head and chest. Mills recovers, takes two well-placed shots with a pistol, etc.
- Cliches. There are plenty of stupid cops. There’s the now obligatory scene in Hollywood’s films of a woman sitting on a toilet with her panties pulled to her knees. And, of course, there’s a water-boarding torture scene. Enhanced Interrogation Techniques have become fashionable as a way to give movies that touch of reality. Nice. All that was needed in the background was a picture of Dick Cheney hanging on the wall.
- The car chase scenes were Transformer-like. You know, the machines switch between robot and vehicle in a blur of detail-less, almost nauseating sequences. The same trick of cinematography applies to “Taken 3” road action, flashes of cars crashing, a truck jack-knifing, pieces flying, all without connection to spacetime or gravity.
“Taken 3” could have risen to semi-good, but no higher, with a simple touch.
The movie should’ve been made with an R rating in mind. There were plenty of opportunities for hard-core cussing and graphic violence. Instead, the viewer gets a slit throat that leaves a couple of drops on the floor and a blouse its original color. When a hit man blows out his brains through the mouth rather than fess up about his boss, there’s no gray and white matter splatter or remains on the glass of the convenience store refrigerator behind him.
The line at the theater box office was long. Kari, I saw “Taken 3” with her and Del, got to the theater first and bought our tickets. Because she, colluding with Del, forced me to strike 109 minutes from my life to watch this silly movie I have no intention of paying her back.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a journalist and author.