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Dan's Review: "Den of Thieves" barely clever enough

Jan 19, 2018 01:59PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Den of Thieves (STX Films)

Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Starring Gerard Butler, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Pablo Schreiber, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Evan Jones, Cooper Andrews, Maurice Compte, Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau, Dawn Olivieri, Lewis Tan, Mo McRae, Meadow Williams, Brian Van Holt, Max Holloway, Jay Dobyns, Alix Lapri.

Written by Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring.

Directed by Christian Gudegast.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:

Remember that one really good movie with Gerard Butler in it? Me either. The Scottish actor has been in several films since his breakout role in 300, and many of them have been mediocre at best, if not terrible, especially recently (Gods of Egypt, London Has Fallen, Geostorm, anyone?). Needless to say, I was less than enthusiastic about the prospects of seeing yet another Butler action movie in Den of Thieves. It looks like your typical “shoot’em up” modern cops versus gangster movies from the trailers, but is it?  

Butler stars as “Big Nick” O’Brien, a corrupt officer in charge of the L.A. County Sheriff major crimes unit. His team (Kaiwi Lymen-Mersereau, Mo McRea, Maurice Compte) are on the trail of a gang of former U.S. Marines led by “Merrimen” (Pablo Schrieber) who mysteriously steal an empty armored truck at the beginning of the film. One of Merrimen’s mates is Levi (50 Cent) and another is Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr. A.K.A. son of Ice Cube), who is the designated driver for the gang. Nick tracks the gang by apprehending Donnie, forcing him to reveal what little information he can about the gang’s next heist, a caper that involves taking unregistered cash from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Nick’s marriage dissolves and he begins to lose a grip on being a father to two young daughters. When the big heist goes down, Nick follow’s Merrimen’s gang down several diversionary rabbit holes until a final, bloody gun fight on the streets. It all seems like your garden-variety cops-and-robbers tale until a major twist at the end, which I won’t spoil. If you see the film, you night notice the small identifiers that tip toward the “surprise” (as I did), but some of you may not.

Den of Thieves does suffer and benefit from Butler’s presence. The parts that suffer are tied to his tendency to overdo the machismo and tough-guy smartassery in which he devours most of the screen attention. Some of this overemphasis on the bravado can be linked to the script, which is laden with more “Yo Mama” jokes and obscenity-laced jabs than you can stand.

On the positive, the action scenes involving Butler and the unfolding of the big caper are intriguing and tense, making Den of Thieves a little better than I thought. O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays a big part of the ensemble than you’d think, too.

The Den of Thieves story goes through a lot of mood-setting sideshows and unnecessary insights into the personal lives of Nick and a few of the robbers, making the 2 hours and 20-minute run time all the more noticeable. It’s as if writer/director Christian Gugedast is trying to channel his inner Michael Mann and failed, leaving us with a really long film. In other words, there isn’t much of a story there, and we’re left with a lot of moody filler in between the “good stuff.”

As for the aforementioned twist, there is enough there to make Den of Thieves barely clever enough to keep your interest and chuckle a bit as the credits roll. It’s not going to make you reflect on anything profound, but it might keep you entertained if you can stand the slow burn it takes to get there.


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