We don’t want to alarm anyone but as the new year is still in its infancy we can say with a little more certainty that the end of days may be upon us, or at least closer than it ever has been before. For 2018 begins with the news that Gerard Butler is in a film that doesn’t suck. Yes, you read that right – Den of Thieves doesn’t blow the blowiest of blows. It’s not Shakespeare, nor is it anything wholly original but this new heist film is, for the most part, decent if predictable fun.
As you may have guessed from the title of the film, stealing money is the name of the game as a group of convicted, and highly dangerous, felons (led by Pablo Schreiber and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) set out for the biggest robbery in history – namely the U.S. federal reserve bank that holds billions. They’ll need an elaborate plan to break into such a secure location, of course, and with the help of O’Shea Jackson Jnr and a whole host of fellow ex-cons, they set about finishing “one last big score”. Hot on their heels are the FBI and the local Sheriff’s department, namely Butler, who are a little rougher around the edges that most men of the law.
Yes, it takes a lot of its cues from others sources, whether it’s Heat, Inside Man, Dog Day Afternoon and countless others, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and for all its clunky dialogue and ludicrous character arcs, the one thing Den of Thieves does right is in its execution of the heist sequences all of which are brought to the fore with gusto and thoughtfulness. Director Christian Gudegast (who wrote London Has Fallen) showcases a wide range of directorial skill that impresses throughout and is the kind of calling card that could earn him more recognition in the future for some of the franchise mongers in Hollywood – hell, if he shows half the nouse here in one of the big superhero franchises then we’d be on board without hesitation. His camera swoops and swirls around the action and while it’s less flashy when it’s not going at 100 MPH, it will keep you entertained for the most part.
Star player from a cast point of view is Pablo Schreiber, backing up his sleazy slimeball repertoire from Orange Is The New Black with a compelling and muscular bad guy that’s much smarter than you may be thinking going into the film – again, another person who could easily bring this type of performance into a larger film. O’Shea Jackson Jnr continues his impressive run of form after Straight Outta Compton and his Batman-obsessed turn in Ingrid Goes West with another strong turn while Butler is better than he has been in years. That’s not saying much considering his poor output of late but this is a nice step towards some sort of acting redemption that he could certainly do with.
Den of Thieves is a tale you have seen many times before – both better and worse – and takes its place somewhere in the middle. Everything it does right it does tremendously but just when it begins to get up a head of steam a ridiculous bit of plotting knocks it off course one too many times during its highly extended runtime. That said, if you have a choice between this or The Commuter as your choice for January action feast, this is the one to go to. A solid if repetitive action-thriller, it is certainly worth catching if you can.
Scott J.Davis | ★★ 1/2
Action, Crime, Drama | USA, 2018 | 15| STX Entertainment | 2nd February 2018 (UK) | Dir. Christian Gudegast | Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr, 50 Cents