NEW YORK. The title may be an oxymoron, but there’s nothing paradoxical about “Honest Thief” (PG-13, Open Road); it’s a solid, entertaining action thriller.
This fast-paced game of cat-and-mouse between a conflicted bank robber and a duo of crooked cops, directed and co-written (with Steve Allrich) by Mark Williams, offers its protagonist, should he prevail, two prizes: a shot at redemption and the love of a good woman.
Liam Neeson, in the familiar role of a wronged man seeking justice (the “Taken” films, “Cold Pursuit”), stars as the eponymous character, Tom Carter. A former Marine who specialized in defusing land mines, Carter has spent the past decade stealing $9 million from 12 banks in seven states.
No one was injured during Carter’s heists, and he has never spent a penny of the loot. Rather, Carter was in it for the adrenaline rush. “It was never about the money but it made me feel good, made me feel alive,” he says.
Looking to rent a storage unit for his stash, Carter falls head over heels for the saleswoman, Annie Sumpter (Kate Walsh). She has no idea that he is the so-called “In-and-Out Bandit.”
After a year of courtship, Carter wants to wipe the slate clean and marry Annie with a clear conscience. He decides to turn himself (and the money) in, plead for leniency and strike a deal for a shortened prison sentence, mindful that he must serve some time for his criminal behavior.
It’s an admirable plan, but easier said than done. When Carter calls the FBI, the bureau chief, Sam Baker (Robert Patrick), is skeptical, as multiple crank callers have claimed over the years to be the elusive robber. Nonetheless he assigns two agents, John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Ramon Hall (Anthony Ramos), to rendezvous with Carter and investigate.
The agents, in turn, seek proof from Carter, so he rashly hands over the keys to the storage unit. The sight of so much dough brings out the worst in the pair.
Nivens convinces his partner that they should steal the money and kill Carter, arguing that no one will be the wiser.
Needless to say, the scheme goes awry and a stunned Annie is brought into the fray. As the lovebirds are forced to flee, an embarrassed Carter tries to explain. “I didn’t lie,” he says. “I just didn’t tell you certain things.”
Whopping understatements aside, “Honest Thief” keeps the viewer guessing as Carter and Annie stay one step ahead of the rogue agents and a trustworthy cop, Tom Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan), picks up the scent.
The film contains intense violence, including gunplay, and fleeting mild profanity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.