Published on February 2nd, 2018 | by voxx0
Den of Thieves
Out 2 February
Length 140 minutes
Director: Christian Gudegast
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jordan Bridges, Pablo Schreiber, Curtis Jackson, O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Plot: Alcoholic Nick ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien (Butler) is the leader of the Regulators, an elite unit of Sheriffs who fight against an elite force of criminals.
Within the opening section of writer-director Christian Gudegast’s directorial debut, ‘Den of Thieves’, there is a brutal shootout where the shooters execute a clever idea when local police call in – it’s an idea that claims the summary of not just the film’s plotting, but also the execution of most of its meaty action set-pieces. With that and the stunning overhead shot of the light-filled, rain-soaked streets of Los Angeles, it is clearly a promising homage to heist thrillers of old, as co-writer Gudegast makes for a confident substitute for those classical directors. However, with the film’s other action set-pieces, the set-up of the heists and the plans for the police to chase these criminals - Have you guessed it? – yes, they are essentially Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’. In fact the film doesn’t just make those references as homage to the classic 1995 thriller, it’s a full-on copy-and-paste job.
Firstly, the cast has been substituted from Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, to Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber. Butler plays Nick ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien, the leader of the Regulators, a unit of elite County Sheriff Deputies. He’s a man who spends most of his time eating, but he’s also a man who has a hell of a temper, though instead of yelling “this is Sparta” here if you piss him off, you get bullets in your back. On the other side is Schreiber, who takes the role of Ray Merrimen, the leader of an elite team of criminals (mostly bank robbers) who plan the biggest robbery in Los Angeles.
This, surprisingly, is within the film’s 90 minute mark out of its total 140 minutes of running time. Throughout the last 50 minutes the film loses momentum by going through many bad ideas, an overstretched plot and finally a silly end twist which leaves the twist in ‘The Usual Suspects’ brilliant by comparison. Sure, the idea of buffed-up men firing automatic weapons at each other might please some audiences, yet the truth is once the giddy novelty of the brutal, cool opening shootout wears off, this is all hokey stuff that, irritatingly, runs for far too long.
Though that’s not to say ‘Den of Thieves’ is a bad heist thriller, as director Gudegast does make some novel choices in his filmmaking. There is a keen montage of each side planning their attack and the film boasts some intriguing camera angles. And while these ideas show that the first-time director has experience with the genre – which he does, having previously wrote ‘A Man Apart’ and ‘London Has Fallen’ - what should’ve been a smash-mouth, fast-paced piece of entertainment clocking in at 90 or 100 minutes long ultimately becomes a 140 minute half-baked pie. Perhaps it would’ve been better if Pacino was walking around these streets; actually… maybe not.
VERDICT: The movie starts well by paying energetic homage to classic heist thrillers, but it ultimately finishes dull, sadly missing the mark and losing all of its heat.
- By Corey Denford