Den of Thieves and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Entertainment
Directed by Christian Gudegast
You know, after The Commuter turned out to be a giant pile of nonsense, I don’t know if I’m up to getting even more of it shoved directly into my face with yet another gritty Cops and Robbers story that looks about as good as a January dump job would. Maybe I’m wrong though! Maybe my expectations are so low after seeing Liam Neeson fight The Illuminati on a train that something much more grounded will be a welcomed change of pace! I highly doubt it, but if last year taught us ANYTHING, it’s to not give up hope even if everything is telling you that THINGS ARE ONLY GONNA GET WORSE FROM HERE!! Does this manage to be the cinematic oasis in the crappy wasteland known as January Releases, or is this sucker yet another mirage that crush our spirits and keep them crushed until around March? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the theft of an armored car by a bunch of BAD ASS criminals led up by Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) whose crew of Merry men includes Levi (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), Bosco (Evan Jones), Mack (Cooper Andrews), and the new guy Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr) . The crime is investigated by a crew of BAD ASS sheriffs led u by Nick Flanagan (Gerard Butler) whose posse of shitty lawmen includes… uh, okay I don’t think any of them other than Gus (Mo McRae) got a name, BUT THEY’RE BAD ASS!! They’re so BAD ASS in fact that they break a WHOLE lot of civil liberties in the process of tracking down Ray’s crew and finding out what they’re up to. It turns out that Ray wants to rob the Federal Reserve of all its discarded money that is set to be shredded, but with BIG NICK breathing down his neck, the plan becomes that much more dangerous; even if they’ve got an armored truck to work with. Can this den of thieves pull off a scam that no one has ever been able to pull off, especially if they’re being watched the whole time? Will Nick and his pals put their dicks back in their pants long enough to do some ACTUAL police work and arrest these guys at some point? You know, come to think of it… why should I care about ANY of them!? They’re all bad! Wait… what if… the title of the movie… IS REFERRING TO BOTH GROUPS!? MOVIE SHOCK!!
Oh yeah! THERE it is! This is the January I remember. It seems that no one learned their lesson from Triple 9 last year because lo and behold we have yet ANOTHER tedious and uninspired cop thriller to clog up the multiplexes to ring us into the New Year! It really shouldn’t be THIS difficult to pull off a freaking heist movie yet year after year we’re reminded of just how boring they can be when put in the wrong hands, and I honestly can’t think of worse hands to put something in than the guy who wrote London Has Fallen; a movie so bad that I still think of “go back to fuck-head-istan” and cringe every time I see Gerard Butler who’s ALSO on hand for this piece of junk. If you’ve seen any heist movie in the last decade, you’ve already seen all that this movie has to offer done much better as the few good things I can say about it regarding its action scenes and a legitimately good performance from O’shea Jackson Jr are swiftly undercut once you’re reminded of films that had those elements as well and DIDN’T suck otherwise. AND WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE TWO FREAKING HOURS!? WHO ASKED FOR ANY OF THIS!?
I have a lot to say about just how terrible this film is, but above all else it is boring and drags for an ETERNITY. It has a decent enough opening and a somewhat interesting finale, but everything in between which is a good seventy to eighty percent of this movie put an insomniac to sleep. The run time is needlessly bloated and drains out what little energy this film earns in its opening minutes, and the endless meandering between that and the final act adds up to NOTHING! There’s nothing the least bit interesting going on for most of this movie, yet they feel the need to show us just how uninteresting it all is in pedantic detail; slowly turning this monstrosity into an endurance test more than anything else. There’s no character’s in this film that you can connect with; it’s just an endless series of chauvinistic and macho posturing to the point that you can almost smell the Axe Body Spray wafting off the screen. I don’t know about the rest of you, but watching a bunch of bros buck up on each other for an hour and a half before we even get to the point of the damn movie doesn’t seem like a judicious use of time and makes me wish some studio hack would have given marching orders to the filmmakers to cut this shit down to a much snappier pace. It’s not like the end result could have been any worse; especially if it means we’d have spent less time with these living embodiments to excessive and outdated machismo.
It’s a film that REVELS in its toxic masculinity as well as its unhealthy hero worship of violent criminals and trigger happy lawmen. Gerard Butler and his crew, as far as the movie cares to show us, work completely autonomously and none of their actions have to be reported to anyone no matter how sadistically violent and absurdly reckless he acts. He’s NEVER held accountable for his actions by anyone in authority, and not in some sort of meta-commentary of modern day policing; rather to try and revive the classic LOOSE CANON WITH A BADGE archetype that feels as outdated and backwards as the patch on his bullet proof vest stating “fuck you” is tasteless and completely tone oblivious. EVERYTHING about Gerard Butler is gross and unpalatable, from his shitty attitudes towards women to his flagrant disregard to police procedure and the Fifth Amendment. He cheats on his wife yet the movie makes HER decision to leave all about how much it hurts HIM, and the follow up scene with her new boyfriend vindicates his hard ass attitudes by portraying said boyfriend as effete and non-confrontational. The movie can’t even portray him negatively when he’s acting like a shitty ex trying to goad another guy into being an asshole like him, so how do you think it handles the heartbreakingly relevant issues of police brutality? The movie doesn’t even blink when he puts some dude in a headlock and almost kills him which you’d think that ANY competent filmmaker who isn’t living under a rock would catch as POSSIBLY being an inappropriate image to put on screen without condemnation, but once again what else do you expect from the guy who wrote London Has Fallen?
There are parts of this that do work; mostly anything involving O’Shea Jackson Jr outside of his interactions with Gerard Butler. This dude is a serious talent who deserves more than trite garbage like this, but he does manage to elevate the material whenever he’s on screen. Also, the heist at the end (before the big shoot out) is interesting enough if a bit prolonged just like everything else in the movie, and it’s a scheme that I don’t THINK I’ve seen another heist films so it gets a few points for originality there. The shoot out AFTER the heist is… fine, but nothing all that impressive outside of the solid sound work (the guns sound REALLY good) and the bewildering sight of a straight up military skirmish between cops and robbers taking place right in the middle of Los Angeles. It’s just as overblown and testosterone fueled as everything else in the movie (and probably just as offensive for that matter) but it at least gives us something interesting to look at while it’s posturing. I also liked the ending which feels like a bit of a rebuke to the overzealous “might makes right” attitude of the rest of the film, but it comes in WAY too late after the film has reveled in its awfulness for so long that I can’t really give it credit outside of being a decent enough note to end on. Knowing where this is leading won’t make a second viewing that much more palatable, but it at least manages to show a bit of cleverness in a film that was entirely devoid of it otherwise.
This is a bad movie, but it’s honestly not any worse than I was expecting it to be given that it’s a January heist film and I’ve been down this road before. It’s not as offensive as London has Fallen (not for a lack of trying however) and I’m sure I’ll be seeing WAY worse as the year goes on. The best this movie can hope for is to get on one of those DVD sets of lesser known O’Shea Jackson Jr films once he really starts to blow up in the next few years. Don’t pay to see this in the theaters, and I wouldn’t even recommend watching it when it gets a home release unless you have WAY too much patience or plan to make liberal use of your fast forward button. At least the title is appropriate considering these jerks managed to steal two hours of my life away. I could have done LOTS of stuff with those two hours, like watch a GOOD O’Shea Jackson Jr film!!