starstarstar-halfstar-outline(2.5 stars)

There’s something about any movie where Liam Neeson gets ticked off that’s reassuringly familiar, like a cozy, old sweater. (Just thinking about one of his numerous action films, from the “Taken” series to “The Commuter,” you can almost hear him growl, “I’m comin’ for ya,” and not know whether he’s talking about shooting someone or rescuing them.) And as threadbare and worn as the plot may be in “Honest Thief” — the story of a career bank robber whose attempt to come clean goes awry after he’s framed for murder — the new movie has that same feeling: a little bit itchy, maybe, and smelling of mothballs, but deeply, inexplicably comforting, in these uncertain times.

It may be strange to talk that way about a slightly lumpy movie that features car chases, gun battles and a fireball or two — Neeson’s character, Tom, is a former Marine demolitions expert, naturally — but it’s true. As Tom’s girlfriend, Annie (Kate Walsh), puts it, as she’s watching him go through the unromantic work of wiring a bomb, “Glamour’s overrated. But knowing how to blow stuff up — that’s pretty cool.”

Annie is actually the reason that Tom has decided to go straight: After falling in love with her, he contacts the FBI and offers to turn himself in — along with every penny of the $9 million he stole, if he can be guaranteed a short sentence in a prison with visitation rights near his lady love. Mysteriously, he hasn’t spent any of that money, somehow living off his savings from his military service. (In a mawkish soliloquy, Tom explains to Annie the real reason he went into a career in crime: It has something to do with his father’s suicide.)

But things don’t work out the way Tom planned when a pair of corrupt agents — a menacing hulk played by Jai Courtney, and his hesitant but easily swayed partner, played by Anthony Ramos — decide to keep the loot that Tom has offered as evidence of his good faith. Another FBI agent (Robert Patrick) gets in their way, he gets killed, and the crime gets pinned on Tom, who must go on the lam to prove his innocence, aided by a more conscientious G-man named Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan) — the partner of the murdered guy.

So far, so formulaic.

“I have to do this,” Tom says at one point, and later: “I’ll do this my way.” He’s not wrong. There’s a sense that Neeson, even more than Tom, was made for this stuff, snapping evildoers’ forearms with a look halfway between regret and pleasure on the 68-year-old actor’s increasingly lined face.

The story never really makes much sense, starting with the moment Tom blithely hands the crooked cops the keys to the storage locker containing the cash. Oh, he has an ace up his sleeve, sure. But very little in the film feels psychologically plausible, including the ease with which Annie forgives Tom for lying to her about his past. Tom may be an honest thief, but this film’s script is full of baloney.

Still, there’s something about Neeson that makes you want to forgive him — whether it’s for bank robbery or for making yet another one of these movies. “Go easy on me,” Tom tells Meyers, at the end of a film in which the protagonist has blown up a house, stolen several cars and committed many, many misdemeanors. You can kind of believe that Meyers will.

PG-13. At area theaters. Contains strong violence, crude references and brief strong language. 99 minutes.