Friday, February 9, 2018

Movie Review: "Den of Thieves" (2018)

Director: Christian Gudegast
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

A group of master criminals plans to rob the Los Angeles Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, a Major Crimes unit runs an investigation on them, hoping to catch or kill the crew before they strike.

Ah yes, a classic story of cops and robbers, only in "Den of Thieves," the robbers seem to be decent enough people and the cops seem like total shitheels. This film serves as the directorial debut of Christian Gudegast, who also wrote the film along with Paul Scheuring. Though Gudegast has not directed before, he has written a couple other films, including "A Man Apart" and "London Has Fallen." The story revolves around a group of master criminals who are planning on robbing the Los Angeles Federal Reserve. The team is led by a former Marine named Ray Merriman, played by Pablo Schreiber. On his team are a couple of his old military buddies named Enson Levoux and 'Bosco' Ostroman, played by 50 Cent and Evan Jones, as well as a speed demon car driver named Donnie Wilson, played by O'Shea Jackson Jr. The Major Crimes division of the local sheriff's department is attempting to catch this group before they commit another robbery. Major Crimes is headed by 'Big Nick,' played by Gerard Butler, who is an alcoholic that cheats on his wife and regularly breaks the law to get his perps. Moe Mcrae, Kaiwi Lyman, Maurice Compte, and Brian Van Holt round out the rest of Big Nick's crew.

"Den of Thieves" is the type of film that oozes testosterone. It showcases toxic masculinity and the perception of what it means to be "alpha." This is Gerard Butler's latest chance to grunt, mumble, and wave his dick around being a tough guy (though not literally). Of course, that doesn't mean it's a lost cause from the start. This kind of premise can make for a pretty entertaining movie if done right. The movie takes an interesting approach in the way it develops its characters. The criminals are seen as loyal friends and decent family men. Butler's Big Nick, on the other hand, is a worse person than all of the robbers combined. He is always drinking and is constantly sleeping around on his wife. He physically and emotionally beats his suspects to gain information that would really be useless if he ever made an actual arrest, and he is hardly ever seen without a cigarette in his mouth. Considering smoking is illegal in public buildings and places of business in California, needless to say, he should have garnered a lot of infractions.

It feels like writer/director Christian Gudegast wants "Den of Thieves" to be a "Heat"- style crime thriller meets an "Oceans Eleven"-style heist movie minus the comedic elements. Though it doesn't quite reach the height of either of those films, there is a lot in this movie that we found surprisingly enjoyable. Don't get us wrong, there are a few major flaws, the biggest of which is its length. There's no way it needed to be 2 hours and 20 minutes long. There is an entire subplot about Nick, his wife, and their marital troubles that really contributes nothing to the plot except to make Nick look like an even bigger douchebag, which is pretty clear before his drunken early morning shenanigans. Whenever Nick is talking to his wife or his kids, the movie drags down to a snail's pace. Also, this is another heist thriller that once again relies heavily on conveniences. Things have to happen just right, just so, in order to make them even remotely possible. If a couple of Federal Reserve employees decide they don't want Chinese food that day, their entire plan is screwed. Beyond these big issues, the acting is solid. Gerard Butler plays a disgruntled asshole well. Pablo Schreiber has solidified his status as "perpetual criminal" from his last few roles, and we have a hunch he'll keep getting better at it over time. We're always happy to see O'Shea Jackson Jr. getting more work and he is excellent here.

We found "Den of Thieves" to be a solid crime thriller heist movie that has just enough intrigue, and just enough cameos from current and former UFC fighters to make it worth our while. If you have enjoyed films like "Heat," "Triple 9," "The Town," or even something like "The Italian Job," chances are, you will appreciate this one as well.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 39%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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