Den of Thieves
Den of Thieves, a simple cops and robbers movie, is the latest in a long line of Los Angeles crime fiction. It’s maybe one of the most ordinary entries in that genre.
As run-of-the-mill as heist films can get, Den of Thieves attempts to beguile its audience into thinking they’re watching something special, opening with statistics that declare LA as the robbery capital of America. Yet the picture makes no compelling case to take an honourable spot in the canon of California crime flicks – it doesn’t have an original point of view. Not in its aesthetic, characterisation, nor themes, and certainly not in its narrative proceedings.
Portraying lead cop “Big Nick” O’Brien is Gerard Butler. Butler returns as we’ve seen him before, continuing his consecutive streak of playing obnoxious, hyper-masculine characters. We peek into Nick’s home life, where we witness his domestic problems, and these scenes only serve to make him even more unlikable. Pablo Schreiber is serviceable, graduating from supporting player to lead actor in his role as head criminal Ray Merrimen, despite being held hostage by a thinly written backstory.
Then there’s 50 Cent as Merrimen’s main man Enson Levoux. The rapper must have been paid handsomely (or really wanted to work with this group of actors) because his reasons for being in the movie are definitely not related to plot or character. The other top billed actor is O’Shea Jackson, who is by far the best thing about the film, as Donnie Wilson. Donnie is part of Merrimen’s gang and he’s the first to be noticed by the cops who then force him to cooperate. His next moves are intricate, much less predictable to telegraph than those of the other characters, and consequently retain the audience’s interest (if any) and maintain the suspense.
Clocking in at 140 minutes, the underwritten Den of Thieves is overlong. The beginning of the third act is a noticeable drag, but the last 25 minutes are genuinely spectacular. The climactic sequence is the closest the movie comes to being an acceptable imitation of its obvious inspiration, Heat, and it’s capped off by a truly satisfying conclusion. If only it wasn’t a slog to get there.
Den of Thieves is released nationwide on 2nd February 2018.
Watch the trailer for Den of Thieves here: