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Den of Thieves
Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Director: Christian Gudegast
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
RUNTIME: 140 Mins
Every now and then a movie comes along that pays subtle and beautiful homage to the Hollywood classics that helped shape modern cinema. Sadly, Den of Thieves is most definitely not one of those films.
To its credit, it really tries to be. You can see the influence of masterpieces such as The Usual Suspects and Heat, but every time it comes close to emulating some of the same thrill or intrigue, it falls flat on its face in a heap of fundamental misunderstanding of its source material.
Den of Thieves is an action-thriller pitting an elite unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department against the state’s most successful bank robbery crew, as the latter plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank.
To say Gerard Butler ‘stars’ as ‘Big Nick’ would assume a certain amount of talent or skill on his behalf, neither of which seem to make much of an appearance during the entire film. His character is the epitome of a greasy, underdeveloped and completely unlikeable macho cop.
It’s never clear if he’s going for a Dirty Harry or a Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant, so he mostly comes across as offensive and cringe-worthy, which doesn’t do much to endear the audience to his devil-may-care brand of justice.
The silver lining of Butler’s performance is that everyone else in the cast becomes a lot easier to like, despite their wooden dialogue and intangible back stories.
Pablo Schreiber as Ray Merrimen is surprisingly engaging however, often finding the balance between disciplined determination and unhinged greed. He plays the ex-Marine stereotype with a self-awareness that the rest of the movie’s characters seem to lack.
Their respective crew members are so blandly written that I had difficulty recalling them as I left the cinema. O’Shea Jackson Jr. and 50 Cent may not be Oscar nominees, but with a script as terrible as this, they’re often forced to simply make do with chewed out cliches.
It’s a discredit to them, and honestly, it feels criminal. The lack of character development makes it very hard to care about any of them as the heist goes on.
All of that might be acceptable if it weren’t also so unbearably long. With a two-and-a-half hour running time containing largely pointless dialogue, you’d at least hope for some high octane action sequences to liven it all up.
You’ll be disappointed to learn that there are very few scenes where there is potential for some adrenaline, and even those are clumsy and boring.
Admittedly, there is clear effort in the cinematography of this film, with some really gorgeous sweeping shots of Los Angeles that add a lot to the atmosphere. The score is really rich and tense, which, considering the failings of its dialogue and characters, is about the only way this movie creates any sort of suspense.
What truly is a shame is that the heist itself is clever. In the right hands, it might even have become a great modern tribute to the classic Hollywood bank robbery genre. Instead, Christian Gudegast has in my opinion butchered his first attempt at directing, and managed to make this offering dated and boring.
It represents everything that’s wrong with the film industry’s approach to action films nowadays. Offensive, poorly coordinated, and intent on making as much money as possible from overused concepts and A-list beefcakes.
Now showing in: Cineco, Seef II, Dana Cinemas, Wadi Al Sail, Mukta A2
Anna’s verdict: 1/5