Den of Thieves - 2018
Director(s): Christian Gudegast
Writer(s): Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring
Cinematography by: Terry Stacey
Editor(s): Joel Cox
Cast: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, Evan Jones, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and 50 Cent
Synopsis: LA County Sheriff’s Dept. go up against one of the most successful bank robbing crew of all time.
Look, I will be honest, watching the trailer for this movie made me grunt out loud. Gerard Butler for the past five to seven years hasn’t really given us a good time at the movies, and add in 50 Cent’s track record, you will understand why I initially dismissed this movie in my head. I walked in with zero to no expectation and I walked out with a general “ok” feeling about the movie. This is not a great movie, and I wouldn’t even venture out and say it’s a good movie, it’s just not a bad movie.
The story is somewhat simple, yet it finds a way to be a little more complicated. We have two “crews,” the bank robbers lead by Pablo Schreiber and the “not so PC” cops lead by Gerard Butler. The cops will stop at nothing to stop them and the crew has military training so they are not your run-of-the-mill bank robbers. The movie adds a few wrinkles in the story, enough for you to engage with it (good or bad), so if you like action heist movies you will find something to enjoy in this script.
Where this movie truly shines is during the action sequences. Director Christian Gudegast and cinematographer Terry Stacey shot the shootouts up close and personal, putting the audience on the front lines. I felt every shot in my chest, and that’s a credit to the incredible sound design by Casey Genton, every shot felt visceral and loud as if they were shooting real guns with real bullets at real people. This movie is bookmarked by two great shootouts that serve as a great introduction to the movie and a great send off to the movie. You could call them two great pieces of bread holding up the content of the sandwich. Unfortunately for the bread, its content isn’t all that great, souring my love for the bread.
Gerard Butler plays Nick Flanagan, the sheriff that doesn’t play by the rules. He has a scruffy beard, wears a leather jacket, has tattoos and smokes a lot. You know, Hollywood’s image of a rough cop. The problem is that Butler never pulls off this person in my eyes. His version of a tough cop is someone who chews gum or food constantly and talks with his mouth full. Damn your rules to hell I will talk with my mouth full! Another aspect to his persona was breathing loudly, almost “out of breath” loudly, to symbolize how crazy or out of the rule book he can get. It felt like all his scenes, outside of the shootouts, where shot during lunch break and they yelled action and he came running in with whatever food he was consuming to say his lines. Also, he has a weird relationship with an FBI agent and their “banter” was beyond cringe worthy.
The rest of the cast isn’t really given anything to play with. Like I said the action is the strong aspect of the script. I was a little bumbled by O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s performances as Donnie. There are many scenes where he has to act scared or hurt and it was just not believable. I saw what he did last year in Ingrid Goes West and I guess he is still raw enough in the game that his performance needs a bit more guidance from the director. He is still someone I will look out for in the future as he continues to grow. 50 Cent was terrible but, MINOR SPOILER DON’T READ THE END OF THIS SENTENCE– his death scene was hilarious.
The script gets bogged down by what in the hands of a better writer and director could’ve been great character moments. But here they just feel forced and they ultimately lead to nowhere. There are countless loose ends that the movie doesn’t even pretend that they attempted to resolve. But, my biggest qualm with the movie was the telegraphed “twist” at the end. I wanted it to not be true. I wanted to be tricked. I thought to myself ok they are being obvious because they want me to think that this is the twist and bam they will change it in the end and… oh… Nope that’s the twist. It made me laugh a little. I won’t fully spoil it but if you know your movies you will get this reference, all that was missing was a coffee cup breaking on the ground.
Den of Thieves offers just enough action moments to keep the audience engaged and entertained. If you ignored the loose plot threads that don’t lead anywhere and the at times cringe-inducing dialogue you may walk away entertained. The big roadblock I could see with audiences is that if you really hate it when someone talks with their mouth full, you won’t be able to get through some of Butler’s scenes. The sound design in the shootouts is why I love movies.
Den of Thieves is currently playing in theaters. I would wait for VOD or even Netflix.
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