Den of Thieves, directed by Christian Gudegast, is the first big heist movie of 2018. Drawing influence from some of the biggest crime movies of the last few years, the movie brings a lot of intensity and buildup that can appear cliche throughout, but Gudegast seems to know this and stays true to the formula.
The film starts out with a shootout at an armored truck robbery, and it is immediately evident that the robbers are professionals. With a seemingly evident modus operandi of only shooting at men in uniform, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, led by Nick Flanagan (Gerard Butler), undertake the investigation using some less than legal methods of obtaining the villains. By trying to obtain information from a local bartender who moonlights as the gang’s driver, Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), who unwittingly becomes caught between the police and his militant gang of thieves.
Most of the film’s buildup is the contrast between the hunting of the alpha male of the crew, Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), who has already been incarcerated for pulling off some big heists in some major banks of Los Angeles, and the planning and execution of robbing the Federal Reserve building in L.A. Using military tactics and strategy, the outlaws try to outwit Flanagan and his cronies by being one step ahead of them at all times.
The robbers’ crew is much more interesting than the police officers, and there are many more recognizable faces. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, as Levi Enson, is the muscle of the crew, showing braun as well as a coolness under pressure throughout the movie. Evan Jones (Cheddar Bob from 8 Mile),plays Bosco, a technician who can manipulate data and engineer blackouts throughout the city. Cooper Andrews as Mack, a Samoan facilitator of robberies, also brings a lot of personality to the crew.
Bulter, as Flanagan, an alcoholic police officer with seemingly nothing to lose, does a pretty good job of making the viewer feel some empathy towards his cause. Butler still looks menacing, and his grizzled look gives his character a feel of the downtrodden sheriff of the Old West films.
The most interesting character is Jackson’s Donnie, who has to play on both sides of the law. Going from bartender to Chinese delivery man to getaway driver, his eminent cool, which obviously runs in his genes, is evident throughout. From start to finish, Jackson is the best part of the movie.
Den of Thieves almost seems too familiar, with many elements borrowed from films like Ocean’s 11, The Town, and Training Day. Many of the scenes of planning and execution are predictable and the viewer is expecting a twist throughout the film. Although the movie is very well-cast, it almost seems like a recycled concept brought to fruition.
The movie is fun to watch, and doesn’t require much thought. It brings the concept of gunslingers and bank robbers into modern times. During the season that most people will be catching up on all of the Oscar nominees, this is somewhat of a good curveball to divert attention. Den of Thieves definitely will not win any awards, but if you are looking for mindless fun with a good cast, it is worth the watch.