Film Review: Den of Thieves

Frances Winston feels that this is a not-very-original heist movie, with stereotypical roles being played by both the hero, Gerard Butler, and the bad guys

Directed by: Christian Gudegast – Starring: Gerard Butler, 50 Cent, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Evan Jones, Dawn Olivieri, Mo McRae, Max Holloway

It’s hard to make an original heist movie. It’s been done so many times that there is very little we haven’t seen at this stage. This is probably the reason why director, Gudegast, drew inspiration from other well-known movies of this genre for this action flick.

The target here is the federal reserve, with a gang of ne’er-do-wells, led by a former marine veteran turned criminal ‘mastermind’, Merriman (Schrieber) planning a convoluted robbery involving used banknotes that are about to be destroyed, and therefore won’t be noticed as missing. Unfortunately for them, hot-headed detective, Nick O’Brien (Butler) is wise to them, and determined to catch them in the act.

As you would expect in a movie of this genre, there are shootouts, tension and explosions. Throw in a hostage situation, and a young gang member (Donnie, played by Jackson Jr) being used as an informant by the cops, and Den of Thieves pretty much ticks all the boxes you would expect.

And that’s the problem. It ticks the boxes, but it doesn’t bring anything new. Butler’s cop is a total stereotype – grizzled, rule-breaking, hard-drinking, and getting divorced. His acting style seems to have evolved into grunting, grimacing, and stroking his beard, when he wants us to know he’s being pensive. Meanwhile, we know all the bad guys are bad guys, because they wear tank-tops to show off their muscles and tattoos.

Every single solitary female character (and there are only a couple in tiny supporting roles) is horrendously underwritten, and overall, Den of Thieves is just trying far too hard. There were moments of this movie that I actually found completely ludicrous (especially the ending). Sometimes less is more, but Gudegast felt the need to throw everything including the kitchen sink at this, and it all just feels cluttered and overblown.

Without the star names in the cast, Den of Thieves would have doubtless gone straight to VOD. Even the action scenes can’t really save it. At over two hours long, it completely overstays its welcome, and really could have done with having a half hour shaved off its running time.

Den of Thieves is one of those films that probably sounded like a great idea during the ‘elevator’ pitch, but doesn’t really work in principle. It’s not as clever as it thinks it is, which means none of the plot-twists deliver in the way they obviously thought that they would.

If you just want two hours of guys pretending that they can be hard and clever at the same time, while shooting a few things along the way, then you’ll enjoy Den of Thieves. Otherwise wait until it pops up on your Netflix, where you at least have the option to switch it off!

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