Movie Review: Den of Thieves

Director: Christian Gudegast

Cast: Gerad Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr, 50 Cent, Evan Jones

Trailer: Click here

DEN OF THIEVES is a gritty Los Angeles crime saga which follows the intersecting and often personally connected lives of an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. and the state’s most successful bank robbery crew as the outlaws plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank of downtown Los Angeles.

Den of Thieves is a cops and robbers heist movie that has a great premise and an interesting ending but ultimately never makes it beyond the realm of a mediocre, January popcorn flick.

Let me start with the good. There are a couple intense shootouts which are filmed well and are entertaining to watch. Also, while it wasn’t executed well in every aspect, the premise of the plan to rob the Federal Reserve Bank in LA was creative, and felt like an angle I haven’t seen before. Yup, that’s about it for the good. Now, let’s talk about what didn’t work.

Gerard Butler and his team doing their thing.

This movie’s greatest issue is that it is entirely too long. The movie is a bloated 2 hours and 20 mins, while there’s at least an hour worth of film that doesn’t need to be there. I never really connected with any of the characters, which made the movie drag on. Den of Thieves tries to mimic the cop and robber rivalry Al Pacino and Robert De Niro had in 1995’s Heat, but it never feels up to the same caliber.

The movie sets itself up as a “gritty crime saga” where the cops are just as rough as the criminals. However, the problem is that it’s pushed too far. The “good guys” are so morally ambiguous, and the “bad guys” are so poorly developed that you end up not caring about anyone. Specifically, Gerard Butler’s character is such a shitty person, that I’m convinced the only reason I remotely cared what happened was because of who the actor was. Switch him out for someone unknown and I most likely would have rooted for the “badguys.” Actually, there might be something to that.

If this movie was written from the perspective of the robbers, it would have been a much better movie. At one point, one of the cops even asks the question about the thieves, who all have military backgrounds; “what happened to these guys?” However, the question is disappointingly never answered. If the movie had been rewritten to answer that question, or even told from their perspective, it could have been more of an “underdog” or “robin hood” type story. Then you could make the cops as rotten as you want and would make for a far more captivating film.

There’s a lot of little things that don’t make sense or are too much of a stretch to be taken seriously. For a group of highly intelligent and sophisticated thieves, much of their plan seems to be left to chance or luck.

The movie also makes a big deal at the beginning that these criminals don’t kill civilians, only people in uniforms (denoting military training), but by the end they have no second thoughts about shooting through scores of occupied cars during a highway traffic jam. Maybe the point was that they had gotten desperate and were finally showing their true colors. It just felt more like sloppy writing.

Pablo Schreiber and 50 Cent destroying evidence like smart baddies.

Admittedly, there is a fairly creative twist at the end that attempts to make sense out of much of the movie (Including how Pablo Schreiber’s character knows so damn much about the inner workings of the Federal Reserve), but after rolling my eyes for two and a half hours it just felt like too little too late. A great idea, which possibly could have been executed more effectively in the hands of better writers.

At the end of the day, Den of Thieves is a morally bleak crime movie, that really only succeeds at giving some intense action scenes in the time of year where there isn’t much else going on at the movies. If you want a run of the mill cops vs robbers scenario with great shootouts, then Den of Thieves might be up your alley.

On a side note, this movie is also why MoviePass is such a great value. Using it meant this movie didn’t cost me anything to see, and eventhough it was mediocre, I still enjoyed watching it more than I would have it had actually cost me money.

Den of Thieves gets a score of 5 bags of cash out of 10.