It is a truth, cinematically acknowledged, that one does not mess with Liam Nesson. This is a lesson that two corrupt cops learn way too late when they double-cross Nesson’s character in Honest Thief (2020), a genre outing from the action star released in 2020.
Directed by Mark Williams (the creator of Netflix’s Ozark), Honest Thief revolves around the eponymous character, essayed by Nesson, who decides to steer away from his old life but soon realizes that redemption from the past does not come easy. While the film features an all too familiar narrative prevalent in Nesson’s previous ventures, it still manages to be a tightly scripted action-thriller with ample genre thrills.
This article dwells on the film’s ending while addressing some major plot threads in the narrative. As usual, a SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t checked out the flick yet.
Honest Thief (2020) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:
Honest Thief revolves around Tom (Liam Nesson), a proficient thief who has robbed twelve banks in seven states of the country, taking in a whopping sum of nine million dollars. Labeled by the media as the “In-and-Out Bandit” (due to his leave-no-trace style of robbery), Tom drifts from one state to the other, evading the eyes of the law.
One day while at a storage facility, Tom meets Annie Wilkins (Kate Walsh), the receptionist at the facility and an aspiring psychologist. Romance blossoms between the two, although Tom reasonably hides his past as a criminal from Annie and tells her he works as a safety-lock repairer. After dating for a year, Tom realizes that Annie is the love of his life and proposes to her to move in with him at their new house.
When she agrees, Tom realizes that he must wash off his shadowy past if he is to begin afresh with Annie. Following much deliberation, Tom books a hotel and calls the FBI, confessing to them that he is indeed the “In-and-Out Bandit.” He agrees to hand himself in and promises to pay back every penny he has stolen—but he puts forth a condition. Since he has willingly turned himself over to the FBI, Tom wishes for a reduced sentence of two years within Boston and with full visitation rights (so that Annie can come to meet him regularly).
FBI Agents Sam Baker (Robert Patrick) and Sean Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan), who are on the other end of Tom’s call, take his claims with a pinch of salt. Already been led astray by fake callers claiming to be the “In-and-Out Bandit,” Baker and Meyers believe Tom to be another faux caller. Despite this, Baker orders two young agents, John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Ramon Hall (Anthony Ramos), to go and meet Tom at the hotel. Nivens and Ramon interrogate Tom and feign suspicion about his grandiose claims, especially since the money is nowhere to be seen.
Tom gives them the key to the storage unit, where he stacks his cash. Nivens and Ramon go to investigate the storage room and are taken aback to find the money in the room. Tempted by the astounding amount, Nivens suggests that he and Ramon steal the money, as no one would believe Tom’s words over theirs. Ramon is hesitant but gives in to the offer to secure the future of his children. Just as the two agents are leaving, Annie manages to catch their footage in the security cameras, but both are able to evade her suspicion by claiming to be Tom’s friends.
Nivens and Ramon then proceed back to the hotel where Tom is staying. In a twist, Nivens reveals his true intentions of killing Tom by making it look like a police encounter. Just as he is about to shoot Tom to death, Agent Sam appears, foiling his plan. Before Tom can expose Nivens and Ramon to Sam, Nivens shoots Sam to death. Tom manages to overpower the duo and escapes with Annie, who arrives at the hotel simultaneously.
When Agent Meyers appears on the scene with his team, Nivens and Ramon conjure up a false story of Tom shooting Sam. This renders Tom a fugitive, putting his and Annie’s life at stake as they are violently pursued by Nivens, Meyers, and the rest of the police force.
Why Did Tom Become A Thief In The First Place?
While the film spells out Tom’s profession early on, the reason behind his choosing a life of crime is not revealed until later in the narrative. As they are escaping from the cops, Annie confronts Tom about lying to her about being a high-profile thief. It is here that Tom divulges his dark past that rendered him a bank-robbing kleptomaniac. Tom reveals that during his time as a marine in the war, his mother died of pneumonia.
Following his mother’s death, Tom’s father grew depressed, which ultimately led him to be fired from his job as a welder at a pipe-manufacturing company. Worse of it all, the CEO of the company denied his father the pension. Already depressed and unwilling to legally challenge the company, Tom’s father suicidally drove his car into an oak tree. Angered by his father’s death, Tom robbed the bank where the CEO kept his money.
After this exploit, Tom realized that he got a thrill from attempting these heists, which gave him an adrenaline rush and made him feel alive. However, meeting Annie reciprocated the same feeling of liveliness, leading Tom to stop his thrill-seeking escapades.
How Does Tom Manage To Take Down Nivens and Ramon?
Well aware of the fact that the law will never believe him over the words of two FBI agents, Tom goes into hiding while putting Annie on a bus to New York. However, the very next day, Tom gets a surprise when Annie reveals that she never left for New York but is instead in the storage facility to retrieve the footage of Nivens and Ramon taking the money.
Just before Annie can escape with the memory card containing the footage, she is cornered by Nivens, who violently smashes her head onto the desk after a scuffle. Ramon is baffled by his partner’s brutality and manages to quietly sneak the memory card into his pocket without Nivens looking.
Thinking Annie is dead, Nivens and Ramon decide to leave the scene. Tom arrives moments later and admits Annie to the hospital. Horrified by the violence inflicted on his partner, Tom decides to take matters into his own hand and decides to go after Nivens and Ramon.
Why Does Ramon Have A Change of Heart?
Agent Ramon, who had been reluctant to join the plan since the beginning, begins to have qualms about his association with the cold-blooded Nivens. Soon after, Ramon is violently ambushed by Tom at his house, with the latter pinning Ramon to the ground. Ramon breaks down and reveals that he gave in to the greed of acquiring nine million dollars, but it was never his intention to hurt anybody during the process. Ramon further mentions the footage from the security unit and hands it over to Tom.
How Does Tom Bring Down Nivens?
Despite having the footage, Tom is aware that simply having footage of Nivens moving a box would not convince the FBI. He instead decides to threaten Nivens into confessing by exploding his house with homemade bombs. A stubborn Nivens refuses and heads to the abandoned house where he has stacked the money.
Nivens calls Ramon for assistance, and the latter turns up at the house but with Tom. Nivens is exasperated by his partner’s betrayal and shoots him to death. After a series of gunshots, Nivens wounds Tom in the abdomen with a bullet and escapes with the money.
Thinking that he has succeeded, Nivens happily drives away. But in a final twist, Tom calls Nivens, informing him that he had placed a second bomb beneath his car seat.
The bomb, which is pressure sensitive, would explode if Nivens tried to get out of the car. A horrified Nivens has no choice but to wait for the bomb squad to come and defuse Tom’s bomb. Unmasked as the murderer responsible for the death of Baker and Ramon, Nivens is finally arrested by Agent Meyers.
Honest Thief (2020) Ending, Explained:
What Happens To Tom In The End?
In the film’s climax, Annie visits Agent Meyers at the precinct, asking if he would go easy on Tom since he not only confessed to his robberies but also helped the FBI in unmasking Nivens. Meyers agrees to put forward his best word for Tom. Suddenly, Meyers receives a call from Tom, who turns up at the station to turn himself in, just as he had initially envisioned. It is inferred that Tom will serve his required sentence for the bank robberies while Annie will wait for his release.
Director Mark Williams has stated how he always wanted to do a film about ‘second chances.’ While Honest Thief shows that redemption is not always an easy journey, it is definitely a path worth charting—and the film’s optimistic end is a testament to its titular vision of being ‘honest,’ even if you are a thief!