HONEST THIEF. Briarcliff Entertainment, 2020. Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, Anthony Ramos, Robert Patrick, Jasmine Cephas Jones. Directed by Mark Williams.

   For an action movie that benefits from the presence of several great character actors, Honest Thief is surprisingly dull and lifeless. Which is somewhat surprising. After all, the film has an intriguing premise – a veteran bank robber decides to go straight and turn himself into the FBI – and a solid lead in Liam Neeson. It’s just the execution that is lacking. The movie just plods along from scene to scene without the kinetic energy that the movie demands.

   Neeson, in yet another outing as a grizzled, world-weary man with a special set of skills, portrays Tom Dolan, a Marine veteran turned bank robber. Called the “In and Out Bandit” by the press and the feds (a term he loathes), Dolan eventually decides to go straight. Why? He meets a woman he adores and figures he wants to settle up his past debts before beginning a new life with her in suburban Boston. So far so good. But things don’t go as planned. (do they ever?) As it turns out, the two FBI agents who follow up on Dolan’s request to turn himself in in exchange for a lighter sentence are themselves corrupt. You see, they are interested in his stashed loot, not his newfound conscience.

   As I said earlier, an intriguing premise. But alas, it mostly doesn’t work. Part of that has to do with how formulaic and derivative it all feels. There’s very little in the movie that hasn’t been done – and done better – before. Also hampering the production is the fact that the movie, while set in Boston, was filmed in Worcester, Massachusetts. Nothing against Worcester, but it so obviously doesn’t look like Boston that it only serves to make the movie look more downmarket than it actually is.

   Final thought. Although his late career as an action hero may be coming to a close, Liam still could do a lot better. So can you.