Den of Thieves (R)

Den of Thieves, starring Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber (Liev’s paternal half-brother Those are some good, tall genes ya’ll), is a present day, cops and robbers action drama where you can’t tell who the bad guys are.  You gain an understanding fairly early on that none of these guys, whether they be cops or robbers, are outstanding citizens, but who do you root for? It plays like an extreme game of cat and mouse, but you can’t tell who the cat is.

As with any movie I see with the intent to review it, I try to go in with zero expectations, but it’s not always easy. Suffice to say, I wasn’t expecting much here. But I gotta tell ya, this movie exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. The action scenes, which mostly involve these beautiful, specialized, high-powered weapons, were exciting. (If you’re into that sort of thing, that is. Guns and shootouts may not be your thing, but I am very much into them – on screen, that is. Just to be clear.) If you’re not into bullets, gun play, violence, cussing and some blood, don’t bother. There is humor and suspense and mystery and a lot more than just a shoot-em-up.

I feel the need to mention that Den of Thieves is one of the first action films I’ve seen in a long time, with such a large cast where the majority of the men are over six feet tall. Not that being over six feet makes you any more of a man or more of a bad ass than a man who is say… 5’7 (I won’t mention any names specifically); but it changes the dynamic of the action when there are these big ole, man-sized, muscular, testosterone spewing, manly men going up against one another. It adds to the intensity of the action. It’s all about wits and brawn, gun power and ammunition here. Think of Predator, and you’ll understand what I’m trying to say about how larger men change the dynamic of the action. Arguably there are very few big gun scenes that can beat Bill Duke and the crew taking down that forest about 45 minutes into Predator, which I will tune in to watch every single time. Kudos to the casting department!

Gerard Butler and his biceps (which are quite impressive, by the way. (Wooooooohoo….  that man’s biceps flexing with that gun in that last action sequence is what I call art!) do a great job here. He is convincing as this a-hole of a cop, akin to Bad Lieutenant, although not nearly as vile. (If you’ve not seen Bad Lieutenant all I will say is that you cannot unsee it once you have. I haven’t watched it in years, but it’s a rough movie for most folks. I wasn’t old enough to see it the first time I saw it and I still don’t feel like I’m old enough to watch it again. Proceed with caution). Along with being an a-hole, he is a bad ass, so it’s all balances out. O’Shea Jackson, Jr.  (I think we may be at the point in his acting career where we can stop referring to him as Ice Cube’s son, but I will continue to do so until I feel all of us are caught up) does a good job as this guy who gets caught between the cat and the mouse. Pablo Schreiber does a good job in his role as an arrogant gang leader. I can’t think of anyone who could have done a better job with his role off the top of my head – maybe Jason Mamoa, but just I want to see him in everything – so, never mind.

Written by Christian Gudegast, the writing is strong, but not flawless. Nevertheless, you get what you pay for and then some. One thing I didn’t like was the use of the N word. I’ve stated previously the use of the word doesn’t offend or bother me personally. I know who and what I am, so miss me with that altogether. It just wasn’t necessary here and added nothing to the story. The fact that a black man was using the word didn’t change that fact. The egotism, machismo, testosterone, bullets, muscles, arrogance, etc. all lend very well to the plot. And finally! – a movie with a strip club scene that is relevant to the plot! The scene helps to elevate the cat and mouse scenario to whole ‘nother level. The plot contains elements of many robbery movies we’ve seen before, and a quite a few cop movie clichés, but the twist of this movie is thoughtful and makes the story fresh. So when all the pieces come together it is all very satisfying.

One particular action scene was unrealistic in many ways, as there are thousands of rounds fired and not one innocent bystander is injured or killed. Nevertheless, the scene is quite entertaining. I was totally into it. Also, there was one important thing that took place that I just couldn’t explain. Full disclosure: maybe I blinked, or was too into my Rafiqi’s chicken and salad and I missed something, but I’ll put all the blame on the writing instead of my indulgent movie-going habits. Don’t judge me. This is a 2 hour 20 minute movie and I knew I didn’t want popcorn or nachos or any of that other movie junk. I should be applauded for being responsible about my dietary choices! (I might have been tempted if the Cheetos popcorn was made with the hot Cheetos, but it isn’t yet. I’m going to tweet Frito Lay when I finish here, so they can get on that right away.)

Anyhoo… Another thing that I realized after watching this movie is that there is no extra exciting soundtrack with crazy loud, pulse pounding, matching music that you’ll want to download immediately after the movie is over. I don’t think a funkier soundtrack would have improved the movie, and I like that they didn’t rely on cliché, nostalgic songs to pull the audience in. I was already in. All the way. It’s straight up storytelling and character development, which is unusual for an action movie, and that’s a large part of what makes this movie better than good.

Den of Thieves earned 8 out of 10 bloops. It is mostly well written. I would watch it again. The acting is entertaining. Gerard Butler’s performance elevates the entire situation. Even though Den of Thieves borrows much from other cops and robbers films, it remains unique enough to make it worth a watch if you’re into action.

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1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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Phantom Threads

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When I know I’ll let you know.

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2 thoughts on “Den of Thieves (R)

  1. Great review, but you forgot to mention the best scene…with Big Nick’s daughter (Elle Whitfield) at the school playground. And I’m in no way biased about that.


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