Full disclosure: When I saw the first trailer for Den of Thieves, I thought it looked pretty awesome. I love heist movies (Heat represent), and every time one is about to come out, I get excited for it. Unfortunately for Den of Thieves, its release date is in January, which automatically turns a potentially good movie into, well, a January release movie. And those are just sad.
The idea behind this film is actually a good one, even if it is rather pedestrian. A robber, played by the criminally underrated Pablo Schreiber, concocts a plan to steal around $120 million from the federal reserve that is about to be taken out of circulation. Schreiber’s Merriman is slightly psychotic and a sort of bad ass and is one of the few things that work.
His main antagonist, Gerard Butler’s Nick “Big Nick” Flanagan, is a law enforcer with a screwed up past. This sounds like a recipe for success based on character alone, but Butler isn’t the bad ass he’s made out to be. Maybe it’s the writing, or Butler just didn’t bring his B-game (let’s be honest, he doesn’t have an A-game), but Flanagan’s development leaves a lot to be desired.
The writers, who fail at character development outside of Merriman, give us some of the worst dialogue choices I’ve ever heard. If I hear anyone complain about Aquaman’s pointless lines in Justice League, I’ll point them to this film, mostly in the direction of 50 Cent, who basically says what sports fans say during an awesome play. 50 Cent, you’re a good rapper but, dude, stay away from film. O’Shea Jackson Jr., (aka little Ice Cube) is also pretty lame, a big letdown for me as he truly captivated me in other performances.
Tension is one of the most important factors in a heist movie and, yes, there is tension here. However, the film is undercut with b-plots and ridiculous dialogue that it takes the tension out at key moments. At 2 hours and 20 minutes, Den of Thieves is far too long for what it’s trying to accomplish. When it hits, it hits, but they are few and far between.
Technically, this film is made very well. Cinematography and sound editing are often ignored, but DAMN, this film looks and sounds beautiful. You feel every action moment and, though I’m not the biggest fan of this film, these components made me enjoy it more than I would have. It’s shot beautifully and the score, which is very similar to Drive, is killer.
Sigh. Den of Thieves could have been awesome. So, so awesome! And yet, it isn’t. I mentioned the runtime and I blame that, as well as the lack of character development. If this film was tightened down to maybe 100 minutes, took out some incredibly uninteresting scenes (that go on far too long), then this would be much better. Schreiber is awesome but Butler straight up sucks. I would rather watch him in Gods of Egypt again (which is quickly becoming so-bad-it’s-good).
Beautifully shot, poorly executed. Skip it.