Den Of Thieves | Christian Gudegast | January 19, 2018
There’s been plenty of heist movies throughout the years, and like any genre, some classics have emerged, but there are plenty of them that we’d rather just forget. Then there’s Den Of Thieves, which is somewhere in between.
Led by first-time director Christian Gudegast, Den Of Thieves opens with an action-filled heist in a gritty side of Los Angeles in an area prime for bank robberies. It’s here that a skilled bank robbery crew of former military men (Pablo Schreiber, 50 Cent, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Oscar Jones) have a bloody shootout in order to steal an armored truck.
The bloodshed leads to an investigation by Detective “Big Nick” O’Brien (Gerard Butler) who heads a team of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. that operate in a shady grey area just outside of the law. Nick connects the dots and knows that this crew has pulled off some big jobs in the past and knows that the biggest has yet to come.
It won’t come as a surprise that the two crews cross paths and that neither has a happy ending. If the plot sounds familiar, that’s because it’s been done plenty of times before, most notably with Michael Mann’s Heat (echoing gun blasts and all). Gudegast’s script shares many similarities to Heat and other heist films of the past, which prevent it from ever really standing out on its own.
What it lacks in an original or smartly handled script, Den Of Thieves has some action sequences that are serviceable enough to keep action fans entertained. They go all-in with the shootouts, but everything that occurs in-between feels like a dull stop-gap. Gudegast’s script is full of plot holes and convenient fixes that he wants you to just go with, but they’re the ultimate distraction.
While Butler, Jackson Jr., and Schreiber are all fine in their respective roles, the script only gives them so much to work with. Butler is given the meatiest material to work with out of the cast, and while it was a noble attempt to give him somewhat of an emotional arc with family drama at home, it never lands right and ultimately just detracts from the story. Unnecessary bits like that add up and are responsible for the film’s unwieldy 2 hour and 20-minute runtime, which it stretches way too thin.
You could do much better than Den Of Thieves, but you could also do much worse with a January release, like recent genre releases Proud Mary and The Commuter. It’s got its problems, but there are enough serviceable action sequences that provide enough mindless entertainment here and there. It’s just a shame that the overall story doesn’t add anything new to the genre. Not to mention, it has a ludacris twist ending that it shamelessly thinks is clever, yet only makes things that much more ridiculous.