Den of Thieves, 2018.
Directed by Christian Gudegast.
Starring Gerard Butler, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Pablo Schreiber, Evan Jones, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Dawn Olivieri, Brian Van Holt, Jordan Bridges, Eric Braeden, Maurice Compte, Sonya Balmores, Cooper Andrews, Meadow Williams, Kaiwi Lyman, Jay Dobyns, Nick Loeb, Mo McRae, and Jermaine Rivers.
As a series of heists escalate across the L.A. landscape, we get to see both sides of the law; riding with Nick O’Brien (Gerard Butler) and his group of Semper Fi elite unit cops, and Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) with his tight-knit crew of career criminals. Den of Thieves chronicles their respective preparations during the build up to an ambitious take down of the Federal Reserve Bank.
The only director capable of remaking Heat was Michael Mann, whose crime-epic was a redo of his own 1989 TV movie L.A. Takedown. With Den of Thieves it appears that the creative team behind this obnoxious movie have played Grand Theft Auto IV for a few hours, before falling asleep in front of the Robert De Niro/Al Pacino classic, and then committing the subsequent dream to celluloid.
As substitutes for those iconic actors, here we get Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber. The latter at least carries an air of ambiguity when it comes to his motivations, with a real sense of guilt associated with any innocents caught up in his gang’s actions. It’s a quiet, brooding performance from the Orange is the New Black star, who along with O’Shea Jackson Jr., emerges from this noise with credit.
The main issue is Butler, who’s usually so reliable in the schlockbuster niche he’s carved out for himself, but here is utterly insufferable as a man who warrants zero empathy. He appears to be playing five different characters all rolled into one, each of them irredeemable. The script wants to present him as flawed family man, and a little like Lethal Weapon’s Martin Riggs, but he simply comes across as a misogynistic douchebag. There is no subtlety to him. Whereas something like HEAT had you conflicted about who you should be rooting for, Butler is such an unlikeable bore that you’re immediately cheering on the bad guys. There is a final reel attempt at trying to humanize him, but it feels so out-of-character that it’s laughable.
With a two-hour plus runtime there was plenty of opportunity to add depth of character, instead we get a script that feels the need to introduce people with lines from their bio. “Big Nick. Original Gangland Cop” greets Butler, and just incase you didn’t get that his name also appears on the screen. It treats the audience as though it has the attention span of a gnat, although for such a long film, with only two action scenes amongst reams of dialogue that wouldn’t be good enough for a GTA cut-scene, you might actually find your attention waning.
Where Den of Thieves is undeniably good is in the execution of the final-act heist and twist, a revelatory moment that’ll have you guffawing at the way it plays out. It’s an extended set piece lifted from Die Hard with a Vengeance and punctuated by a Sicario rip-off, but provides momentum to a film that has been severely lacking any up to that point.
Wholly unoriginal, regressive in its representation of women, who are all strippers or victims, Den of Thieves is a crime epic that’s simply criminal.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★ ★