Monday, May 14, 2018

Movie Review: DEN OF THIEVES (2018) Starring Gerard Butler


Director: Christian Gudegast
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, Maurice Compte, Brian Van Holt, Evan Jones, Dawn Olivieri
Runtime: 140 min
Rating: R for violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.


Review by Popa Razvan

If you've an avid movie review reader, you'll probably find this concept familiar: "It's not original, but it's well executed". That one goes hand in hand with the "So bad, it's good" thought process. Well, the crime saga "Den of Thieves" pretty much qualifies for the above, and it's probably for the best that it does.

Written and directed by "A Man Apart" and "London Has Fallen" writer Christian Gudegast, the film stars Gerard Butler as Nick O'Brien, also known as "Big Nick", a Los Angeles detective who goes up against a daring group of bank robbers led by Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) who are about to perform the biggest heist in the history of the United States. Their target: the Federal Reserve Bank.

Like I said before, it's nothing original. The bank heist plot and duel between cops and robbers has been done before in movies both better and worse. "Den of Thieves" is surprising because it puts more thought into it than most films, resulting in an above average heist thriller that it honestly didn't need to be to get the job done. The heist plan is clever enough to seem plausible. If it occasionally breaks logic or lacks sense, it's simply because it needs to in order to keep things moving. And the movie never has any problem moving along. It has decent pacing is able to sustain interest on a moment-to-moment basis for a running time that comes close to 2 hours and 30 minutes. That alone is pretty crafty on Gudegast's part.

Obviously, the director's inspiration is "Heat". The dynamic between the cops and robbers and the rising tension spiraling towards the final showdown are all here, but it never reaches the heights of De Niro and Pacino facing off in that diner. There's little tension in that regard. Butler and Schreiber are good enough here, the former nailing the part of the tough cop who also happens to be a bad husband, a requisite in such films, and the latter menacing as a former Marine turned bank robber with nothing to lose. But the film doesn't try to dig deeper, and while it would have been nice to see some depth here, it's clear that the film's interest is geared towards straightforward action and surface level plotting. In this case, asking for more is asking for trouble.

For Gerard this is the best role he's had in years and he's electric in every scene he's in. The rest of the ensemble cast features O'Shea Jackson Jr. ("Straight Outta Compton"), 50 Cent, Evan Jones ("Jarhead"), Maurice Compte ("Narcos"), Brian Van Holt ("Black Hawk Down") and Kaiwi Lyman ("American Horror Story"). They all look and act the part, but aside from Jackson Jr. and 50 Cent, their characters don't get fleshed out much.

Another interesting thing is that Nick's team is not your typical detective unit. They are clearly shown not playing by the rules cops are usually bound by, reminding me of Vic Mackey and his crew from "The Shield". Unlike that show, however, Nick's crew isn't crooked. They're all about taking down the bad guys and they look like the perfect weapon to do that in these harsh times. On the opposite side, the robbers are all former Marines, making their discipline and tactics the most dangerous thing to ever hit the streets of L.A. This makes the perfect set-up for a couple of awesome action sequences that can only be described as urban warfare.

Those explosive scenes are where the film truly shines. No shaky cam nonsense, thank God, just well crafted mayhem where it's always easy to understand what's going on and tension runs high. The film achieves a great sense of danger and suspense by making it clear from the start that both crews, the cops and robbers, are deadly and won't play by the rules. It's not the subtle melancholic tension that permeates "Heat", nor does it strive to achieve that level of psychological conflict, but it's still pretty damn effective.

The film also throws in a bunch of twists that are a lot of fun, particularly towards the end. Whether or not they make sense, well, like I said, it doesn't really matter. It's a great set-up for the already announced sequel.

So, we've established that the film isn't original. It's caught enough flak for ripping off "Heat", which is a claim I don't agree with 100%. Any movie can approach any topic from any angle the director/writer sees fit. In this case Gudegast wanted "Heat" to be his template. The two films couldn't be more different aside from its basic concept, so the rip-off claim is just typical overreacting from critics. "Den of Thieves" won't always make sense, but if you can live with that, it's an entertaining heist thriller featuring a solid cast, satisfying action, and decent twists. What more could you ask for ?



  • Decent plot with some nice twists
  • Good pacing and tension throughout
  • Fast and furious action
  • Butler's best role in quite some time.
  • Solid ensemble cast

  • Underdeveloped supporting characters
  • The usual cops and robbers cliches
  • Won't always make sense



1 comment:

  1. It was a really good action movie. All the players were spot on.


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