Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Christian Gudegast
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Terry Stacey
WRITERS: Christian Gudegast, Paul Scheuring
MUSIC: Cliff Martinez
As I’m sitting in the theater watching “Den of Thieves”, I realize about ten minutes in that I’ve seen this movie before. The only problem was that the film was directed by Michael Mann and it was called “Heat”. I also realized as the film dragged on that I would much rather be at home watching that stellar classic instead.
Don’t get me wrong. Just because a film looks and somewhat sounds like another film doesn’t mean that the movie is bad. Plenty of films have taken inspiration from something else and totally succeeded. Heck, last year’s “It” took its notes from films like “Stand By Me” and “Happy Death Day” was a weirdly surprising mashup of “Groundhog Day” and “Scream”.
The only difference is that those films did a fantastic job of living up to the films that inspired them. “Den of Thieves” is the poor man’s “Heat” starring the poor man’s action star Gerard Butler as a hard-hitting cop named Big Nick. He and his team are tasked with taking down a crew that is hellbent on robbing the Federal Reserve Bank.
The movie, again like “Heat” follows Big Nick not only on the case but into his family life where he is going through some marital woes. I would tell you about Big Nick’s team, but to be honest I can’t remember any of them. Nope, not one supporting character is standing out to me right now and as of the writing of this review, it’s only been an hour since I walked out of the theater.
We also follow Pablo Schreiber as Ray Merrimen, the main man behind the team that wants to take down the Feds. Just like Big Nick’s forgetful team, though, I can’t tell you anything about Merrimen’s crew members, either. I only remember that one of them was played by 50 Cent and another was played by O’Shea Jackson Jr.
There are a couple of decent shootouts and had the film been trimmed down into a lean two hours, then maybe it would have been a more worthy crime film. At almost two and a half hours, there is far too much fat on this film as we drag through typical scenes where you’ll hear classic lines such as, “It had to be an inside job” and “These guys aren’t your local gangbangers.”
To his credit, Butler does give a more decent performance than I’ve seen out of him in awhile, but like every other character in this film, Big Nick is ultimately a cookie-cutter character. Then there is a weird last minute twist that is just thrown in for good measure. It is at this point that the film stops trying to be “Heat” and tries to be “The Usual Suspects”. Instead of making the film more clever, the twist ending actually makes the film even more absurd than it was going to be in the first place.
“Den of Thieves” could have been a good little crime movie, but it tried to be too big for its own good. A knock-off story, terrible characters and way too much fluff in the middle make this a forgettable crime story.