Den of Thieves is Better Than It Has Any Right to Be.
I might have to rethink my stance on January because Den of Thieves marks not just one, but two pretty good movies that opened this week. While it’s pretty obvious that the film is paying homage to some classic films of the past, such as Heat and Training Day, it manages to stand on its own as an energetic action packed film with enough heart to keep audiences engrossed in it. Best of all, it’s a movie that manages to be a lot more fun to watch than it has any right to be.
Den of Thieves stars Gerard Butler as a grizzled, street tough cop with enough vices to keep audiences from actually liking him. His take no prisoner, “big dick swinging” mentality makes him a worthy rival for Pablo Schreiber, a professional thief with the oddly appropriate name Merriman (an obvious, but a pleasant twist on Robin Hood’s Merry Men). Joining his crew are the likes of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, O’Shea Jackson Jr, and Evan Jones. Together these actors manage to make the bank robbers the likable characters in the film and it’s easy to root against Butler from the get-go. While the old saying might be “there is no honor among thieves” that’s hardly the case in this film as these men stick to a code and prove to be smart enough to remain the loveable underdogs.
Christian Gudegast pulls double duty on Den of Thieves as both director and writers, and I have to admit that I admire his overall vision. It might not be a perfect film, but the intricacies of this heist film are more than enough to snare the audience’s attention from the beginning. Lot’s of critics might spout off about how films like Heat are the best of the best, but I feel like Den of Thieves certainly holds its own when it comes to the genre. The characters are intricate, the plot is compelling, and the action sequences are filled with tension. Normally I don’t like to comment on other people’s thoughts when it comes to my reviews, but the Rotten Tomatoes score for Den of Thieves is absolute garbage and only proves that critics are more disconnected from audiences than ever. Gudegast should be proud of the film he made, especially because it’s such a solid popcorn flick.
That being said, Den of Thieves certainly has its share of gratuitous sequences that seem straight out of the gritty urban cop thriller. Lots of cops abusing their power in the blink of an eye, Butler’s team doesn’t seem to know the meaning of “excessive” force. There are plenty of scenes displaying his anger issues exasperated by drinking issues, and even a divorce looming on the horizon. Oh, and don’t forget a strip club scene. Butler’s character might be a bit of a cliche, but if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The film certainly makes up for it with a well-rounded cast of characters when it comes to the thieves.
Den of Thieves sports an insane run time at nearly two and a half hours. While it definitely would be possible to whittle that down by dropping some of the more cliche sequences, I found the film to keep excellent pacing and didn’t get a chance to let my mind wander much. It invests itself in creating comradery among its characters, which are mostly former Marines and that sense of brotherhood and honor shine through. Not to mention the sequences where Butler and Schreiber size each other are pretty intense. I first saw Schreiber in American Gods last year and I’m really excited to see what the actor has in store for us next after Den of Thieves. He is definitely leading man material.
Look, I’m not saying Den of Thieves is a great movie. It’s got its share of flaws. However, it’s a really fun movie to watch. The actors definitely embody their roles. The plot is smart enough to keep audiences guessing. The action sequences are memorable and pretty intense. Despite the fact that the film pays homage to movies that might be “better” than it, I think that Den of Thieves is a movie well worth the price of admission. It will definitely grab hold of you and refuse to let go until the last bullet is fired in the final showdown. It’s smart enough to be a solid heist movie but mindless enough to offer up a break from the monotony of daily life. If you’re even slightly curious about it, I think you’ll really enjoy this movie for what it is.