The contemporary Liam Neeson crime thriller “Honest Thief” (** OUT ****) lives up to its oxymoronic title. As the protagonist, Neeson plays Tom Dolan, a resourceful but sympathetic bank robber who pulled a hitch in the Marine Corps as a demolition expert. One day, quite by accident, Dolan discovers the lady of this dreams and later decides to turn himself in for his crimes.

He cannot marry Annie (Kate Walsh of “Legion”) with a guilty conscience and lie to her about his past, so he contacts the FBI. Nicknamed the “In and Out Bandit,” Dolan has amassed $9 million in currency from twelve banks that he knocked over in seven states. Mind you, Dolan expects to draw jail time. Nevertheless, he hopes he can cut a deal with federal prosecutors for a reduced sentence. Furthermore, he prefers to do his time in a facility near his future wife, so she can pay him regular visits.

Clearly, Dolan approaches the proposition of negotiating such a saccharine deal with outlandish optimism. Indeed, this makes Neeson’s morally compromised hero seem commendably honorable in an era when honor gets little respect. Dolan wants to do the right thing. Meanwhile, Annie believes and supports him 100 percent.

She knows what Dolan has done but stands by him, even when her own life hangs in jeopardy. Incidentally, no spring chicken herself, Annie has weathered her own stormy divorce. Dolan has seen a lot of tragedy in his life and witnessed first-hand some illegal monetary skullduggery.

His father lost a pension through no fault of his own when an unscrupulous CEO looted the company fund and prompted his dad to commit suicide. This skullduggery induced Dolan to utilize his special set of skills to loot the CEO’s bank account where he had stashed the stolen money.

Essentially, “Honest Thief” is a tolerable but pedestrian character-driven drama about an amiable crook, and Liam Neeson radiates charisma galore. Incidentally, Dolan abhors the “In and Out Bandit” moniker. After offering to return the loot and face prosecution, Dolan tangles with two young, unethical FBI agents.

They plan to discredit his story and then secretly confiscate his millions for their personal use. Happily, Dolan has prepared himself for just such a contingency, and it takes him about 75 minutes in terms of movie time to turn the tables on these greedy FBI agents, keep himself and Annie alive, and arrange a legitimate deal with the Bureau.

“Suicide Squad” actor Jai Courtney is cast as rapacious FBI agent John Nivens, while Anthony Ramos of “Hamilton” plays Agent Hall. Comparatively, Nivens is single, while Hall has a wife and two newborn sons. Their FBI superior has ordered them to verify Dolan’s claim about being the “In and Out Bandit.”

Meantime, several crackpots have tried to confess to Dolan’s crimes, but the Bureau never found sufficient evidence to verify those claims. When Nivens and Hall ask him for incriminating evidence to confirm his identity, Dolan explains his bank robbery methods.

First, he robs banks only during holiday weekends when everybody has Monday off. Second, the building next door to the bank must be vacant. Entering through this empty building, Dolan breaks into the bank, deploys his equipment to drill into the safe.

Sometimes, he has to use small amounts of explosives to open stubborn safes. After he cleans out the vault, Dolan tidies up after himself and leaves the fewest clues about his presence. Ultimately, he hands Agent Nivens his storage unit key and assures them, they will find $3 million in banknotes. Unfortunately, Dolan’s best-laid plans go awry. Nivens plans to steal the $3 million. Initially, Hall refuses to act as an accomplice. Nevertheless, Nivens convinces his partner he would be throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime to provide for the future of his family.

Best known for writing Ben Affleck’s provocative bullet-riddled thriller “The Accountant” (2016) and executive producing Netflix’s cartel series “Ozark,” “Family Man” director Mark Williams sticks to procedural basics. He doesn’t clutter up the largely straightforward action with frivolous subplots and characters.

Everybody comes with some form of motivation that puts them either on the right or the wrong side of the law. Williams doesn’t let the romance between Tom and Annie interfere with the action, except when the villains recognize Annie as a bargaining chip in their negotiations.

Characterization is kept to a bare minimum. The only extraneous element that isn’t developed either for comic relief or dramatic revelations is the adorable dog that good guy FBI agent Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan of “Shot Caller”) carries around with him. No, this cute, little pooch neither urinates in Meyer’s agency car nor latches onto Dolan’s ankle during a sudden plot twist.

Meantime, Williams relies on every cliché you can imagine to keep the characters vaulting over obstacles. Literally, you can guess everything that unfolds in “Honest Thief” before either co-scenarist Steve Allrich of “The Timber” or Williams set it up and pull it off. Just as there are two corrupt FBI agents, two incorruptible FBI agents have their eyes on their devious colleagues.

“Terminator 2” star Robert Patrick plays Agent Sam Baker who assigned Nivens and Hall to Dolan’s case. The other straight-arrow agent is Meyers. He has survived his own divorce and wound up with his ex-wife’s dog instead of his house. He investigates Nivens and Hall after Baker’s murder.

The suspicious Meyers doesn’t understand why Nivens and Hall have implicated Dolan for Baker’s murder when Dolan had contacted Baker initially to give himself up. Inevitably, Meyers and Dolan run afoul of each other, and Dolan delivers irrefutable proof that Nivens and Hall have framed him for Baker’s murder.

The gritty on-location lensing in Massachusetts creates a palatable sense of atmosphere and urgency, and the strong cast gives this formulaic fodder a modicum of credibility. “Honest Thief” amounts to a polished looking potboiler. Compared with Neeson’s previous outing, the exciting and suspenseful “Cold Pursuit,” “Honest Thief” qualifies as a low stakes crime thriller with nominal surprises.

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