Review – Neeson Steals This Movie (“Honest Thief”)

Liam Neeson has gotten himself in a pickle. After doing the Taken franchise, he’s been pretty much typecast as the go-to guy who’ll beat up the bad guys while getting a job done. The Commuter, Cold Pursuit, A Walk Among Tombstones, and his upcoming The Ice Road are part of his new repertoire.

*

Neeson this time around plays Tom Carter, a 10-year career thief that successfully blows open bank vaults and gets away with it. Being dubbed the “In-and-Out Bandit” (“I don’t like being called that!”), Tom falls in loves one day with Annie (Kate Walsh), who runs a storage facility where Tom secretly keeps his $9 million in stolen cash. Ah, true love! So smitten is he, that Tom wants to come clean and confess all to the FBI to start his new life with Annie. Yeah, big mistake there, pal! After talking to veteran agents Meyers & Baker (Jeffrey Donovan & Robert Patrick), Tom’s case is assigned to two other agents, Nivens & Hall (Jai Courtney & Anthony Ramos).

Even though Tom’s proficient and highly-skilled, he’s stupid enough to let these two guys just take his money in good faith, without any guarantees that his demands of a short prison sentence will be honored. Really, Tom? As anyone could have guessed, Nivens & Hall decide to keep the money and then get rid of Tom. Unfortunately, there’s a major hiccup in their plan and Tom is on the run, framed for the murder of agent Baker. To make matters worse, Annie is almost killed when she has the goods on Nivens & Hall.

With Annie hurt, the FBI, police, Nivens & Hall, and agent Meyers are all after Tom. But our hero is going to make sure he’s taken down the bad guys and cleared his name first, and that means using his particular set of skills to stop them for good! Mostly a producer, director Mark Williams has only written for TV’s Ozark show and directed only one other movie, the forgettable Family Man in 2016. He co-wrote this with Steve Allrich, who also wrote forgettable movies, The Timber and Bad Karma. So, with that in mind, you have a major problem and an ace-in-the-hole.

Williams & Allrich have written, although clichéd, a pretty good story all in all. The characters are all cookie-cutter, but have a nice tone to them, especially Tom, who is fleshed-out nicely by Neesom. The pace is fast and doesn’t bog down with dumb side-plots or asides as others do, but there’s one major factor that you can’t overlook. Those incessant plot holes! Nobody says or does anything in this movie that is remotely smart! I mean, the flaws are everywhere and staring you right in the face! Example: Annie is in a hospital room one second and then moments later she’s taken to a hotel room. Given the circumstances in the movie, that could NOT have happened! To quote Deadpool, “That’s just lazy writing.”

Thank goodness the cast is strong! Neeson does his acting yet, playing a compassionate, sweet, regular kinda guy who only goes bonkers in the third act. His chemistry with Walsh is strong and believable, which is nice to see for once. Another nice and unexpected touch was agent Meyers (Donovan) and his relationship with his doggy. Cute. Courtney and Ramos are your standard/generic bad guys and Patrick isn’t on screen nearly long enough for me. I will kudos to Williams for his decent direction and camerawork. Another victim of the virus, this movie was supposed to come out last year, but is finally coming out now.


**Currently showing at open theatres. Check your local listings.

Rob Roy (1995)

*

Based on a true historical incident way back in the 1700’s, ya gotta hand it to the filmmakers for shooting on location in drop-dead gorgeous Scotland. This story tells the tale of a simple, honest man who just wanted to clear his name and be free. Yeah, good luck with that!

His name is Robert Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) and he’s chief of the Clan MacGregor in bonnie Scotland, 1713. Barely able to make ends meet to feed his people, he strikes a high-risk deal with the evil James Graham, the 4th Marquess of Montross (John Hurt). Rob will borrow 1000 pounds to trade cattle and pay the Marquess back with interest. BUT! Staying at the castle with the Marquess is the disreputable, lecherous, despicable, and cut-throat swordsman aristocrat Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth) who is not only broke, but a disgrace to his name.

Enter Archie’s BFF, Killearn (Brian Cox) who drops a dime on Rob Roy and his 1000 pound deal with the Marquess. Some fast cash would solve all his problems! Killearn has Rob’s innocent minion (Eric Stoltz) get the money and tells Archie about the deal, leading to murder and theft of the cash. When Rob goes back to ask for another 1000 pounds, the angry Marquess wants Rob to accuse his nemesis, John Campbell, the 2nd Duke of Argyll (Andrew Keir) of being a Jacobite (someone who is against the King). When Rob refuses, he is accused of stealing the money and the hunt is on!

Archibald and his heinous men scour the countryside looking for Rob, his men, and his family, eventually raping Mary, his wife (Jessica Lange), and killing his dog. As Rob desperately tries to clear his name by gathering damning evidence against the Marquess, Mary does the same but ends up slitting the throat of Killearn for good measure. Atta girl! As Rob is captured and escapes, almost dying in the process, Mary goes to the Duke of Argyll to strike a deal with him. A climactic swordfight duel will be fought between Rob Roy and Archibald to determine the outcome of everyone’s fates.

This movie seriously rocks. Screenwriter Alan Sharp, though mostly a prolific TV movie writer, has written other motion pictures (Damnation Alley, The Osterman Weekend). A native of Scotland, this movie (much like Braveheart) he really captures the essence of Scotland and the men & women of the times. Rugged, cold, plain, and visceral, you can feel the mud and dirt as they walk through the highlands. With Scottish director Michael Caton-Jones (This Boy’s Life, The Jackal) at the helm, you couldn’t go wrong.

Neeson is solid as Rob Roy and looks so rugged and viral, he could take on Braveheart himself without trying. The supporting cast is just as stellar with Hurt, Lange, and Roth at their peak. And check out the gorgeous cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub; it’s breath-taking. And you like swordfights as much as I do, that climactic duel at the end is one of the best… and nastiest.

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