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Review: Den of Thieves (2018)

Den of Thieves (2018)

Directed by: Christian Gudegast

Premise: A crew of bank robbers plans a heist of the Federal Reserve Bank in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, a rouge sheriff (Gerard Butler) and his team attempt to track down the criminals.

What Works: The action scenes of Den of Thieves are pretty good. The filmmakers keep the set pieces confined to a credible scale and the gunplay has a feel for the weight and recoil and volume of actual gunfire. Den of Thieves is another Gerard Butler film full of machismo. All of the characters are muscled and tattooed and talk tough while looking at everything with steely one hundred yard stares. This is familiar territory for Gerard Butler, who is a producer as well as star of this movie, and he does it well. But the machismo in Den of Thieves is so over the top that it’s funny. This seems intentional, especially on Butler’s part, and it is further proof that he is probably in on the joke.  

What Doesn’t: There’s a lot wrong with Den of Thieves but among the main problems is that it’s too long. The movie runs two hours and twenty minutes and there is no reason for it to be that length. The running time is padded with a lot of unnecessary and out of place sequences, mostly taking place among the families of the cops and robbers. Gerard Butler’s character has a troubled home life and he is estranged from his wife and daughters. Perhaps the most bizarre sequence in Den of Thieves occurs when one of the criminals (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), accompanied by his crew of murders or thieves, meets his daughter’s prom date and makes an implied threat. These sequences have no pay off; they don’t come up again in the story or have consequences on the action, or even provide motivation for the characters. What they do accomplish is a retread of the cop and criminal cliché in which the distinction between the two gets fuzzy. It’s a lazy storytelling convention and it’s done poorly here. It’s especially troubling at a time when there is a lot of concern about police violence; none of the characters of Den of Thieves are likable and the police are violent and unscrupulous and the filmmakers don’t seem to have a single thought about that. This reveals a tension in this movie that strains the storytelling. On one hand, Den of Thieves wants to be a law enforcement procedural like Michael Mann’s Heat, which is clearly influential on this movie. But it also wants to be a silly buddies-in-action picture like Bad Boys. The procedural elements slow down the action while the violent posturing and disregard for reality undermines the film’s credibly. Den of Thieves also has a terrible regard for women. Almost all of the female characters are just sexy window dressing with virtually no lines.

Bottom Line: Den of Thieves is marginally competent as a heist thriller. There is probably a solid 90 minute movie in there somewhere but Den of Thieves is too long and makes too many missteps.

Episode: #685 (February 11, 2018)