I’m going to be honest when I say I love films with a good storyline, and good action. Too much action makes me bored. Too much storyline is guaranteed to make me fall asleep as well. Blade Runner 2049 is an example of the latter. When I decided to go see Den of Thieves, I was afraid it was too much of the first. The trailer made it look like just another action flick. Besides, 50 Cent stars in it. How many rappers actually turn out to be good actors?
Despite all of this and my undying love for Gerard Butler, I decided to go see it. Turns out I was pleasantly surprised. While Den of Thieves is not a memorable film, it is very entertaining. I found myself enjoying it far more than I had expected beforehand. But what are the good things about the film and what are the flaws?
IMDB‘s short but spoiler-free synopsis is as follows:
A gritty crime saga which follows the lives of an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. and the state’s most successful bank robbery crew as the outlaws plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank.
What does Den of Thieves get right?
While the opening scene already sets the tone of a flick that is eager to have its leads shoot up everything that comes on screen, at times Den of Thieves manages to be genuinely clever. The story is not original in any way. It’s clear Heat has been a big inspiration for the film. However, the film is packed with twists and layers and manages to keep surprising its audience. I found myself thinking I knew exactly what was going to happen at some points. But then, when I didn’t expect it, the film took another turn. I didn’t realise the resolution of the plot when Gerard Butler’s character Big Nick discovered it as well. That’s a good thing. It kept me on my toes and ensured that I did not zone out.
I also enjoyed seeing the attempt to fleshen out the characters. Yes, you have the good guys and the bad guys. Yet the bad guys have good sides and vice versa. One of my favourite scenes (spoiler) is when 50 Cent’s character tells his daughter’s date he wants to talk for a moment. He takes the boy inside a room where a whole gang is waiting for him. He receives the warning to take care of 50’s daughter, or else. I enjoyed that because it was a moment of comic relief and probably very relatable to all fathers out there.
The acting was also very good. While I am biased when it comes to Gerard, I did truly enjoy his portrayal of troubled cop. Pablo Schreiber, who most will know as Pornstache from OITNB, is an excellent bad guy, but he remains human throughout. And believe it or not, 50 Cent is actually a pretty good actor. Well, I haven’t seen him play anything but a gangster, but then again, he has that down.
What could be better?
Den of Thieves is a macho-film in the sense that it is clearly aimed at men. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. However, it kind of feels like the women who do have a role in this film are nothing but plot devices. That’s a shame. There’s a subplot in which Nick’s (Butler) wife wants to divorce him, although we don’t clearly get to know why. Apparently he cheats? Anyway, it is only addressed two more times before forgotten completely. While I understand that it was used to show another side to the ruthless cop, it was not necessary. That is just one example. Other women are just there to entertain the men. Not the worst thing in the world as that’s what you get in a heist film. But I just kind of feel like this is a missed opportunity.
At some points it also gets slightly repetitive. The film never lets you forget that you are watching a cop vs thieves film. At some point it just feels like they are shooting for the sake of shooting things. Because that’s what a heist film is all about, after all.
The ending is quite open, which was confusing to me at first. However, I just read that they announced a sequel. That explains a lot. However, a more closed ending would have been a bit more satisfying.
Den of Thieves is not a masterpiece, however, it is better than many other action films that try to achieve the same. Thanks to a great cast and a good storyline, the film remains entertaining throughout its running time. If you don’t mind the amount of shooting and the fact that it is a very male-oriented film, Den of Thieves will definitely be a fun ride.