IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 140 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Los Angeles. Ray Merrimen is the leader of a gang who carry out robberies. Detective Nick “Big Nick” O’Brien,whose marriage is going down the toilet largely due to his habit of seeing other women, has been monitoring Merrimen and his crew for a while, while Merrimen holds a grudge against Nick for killing one of his men. Nick finds one of Merrimen’s men Donnie and kidnaps him for interrogation. Meanwhile Merrimen is planning to rob the Federal Reserve Bank on the Friday by covertly removing about $30 million in old bills with deleted serial numbers before they are shredded….
Michael Mann’s superb Heat has influenced a great many other crime thrillers, but Den Of Thieves is so similar that writers Christian Gudegast, who also directed, and Paul Scheuring ought to have credited Mann for their own script, which continually pilfers the earlier film but has little of its style or quality of writing, giving us a fair bit of idiocy instead such as Nick having remarkably dim law enforcement skills when he does things like reveal his connection to Donnie, now an informer working for him, in front of Merrimen and his gang at a restaurant – plus a climactic twist which was probably intended to recall another classic crime movie but which makes no sense whatsoever. The cop/criminal dynamic more resembles the one in To Live And Die In L.A, with the criminal having a stronger moral sense than the cop, but the writing fails to explore this and is mostly content to show how much Nick likes to bend the rules, especially brutally assaulting suspects. Gerard Butler ramps up his usual tough grouchy act but the brutish, cheating ‘hero’ he plays is hard to like or even admire – which may be the point but doesn’t really make us want him to catch his quarry. In fact the character writing is poor throughout. Despite the 140 min running time, Ray and Donnie are the only two out of the gang of crooks whom we get to know and even Ray has little depth [he’s just out of prison and is well trained and that’s about it] – and let’s not even get into the way the female characters are given such short shrift.
Eventually, after over an hour and a half of inter-department squabbling, the thieves preparing to do what they’re going to do, Nick’s unconvincing personal life stuff, plot developments which go absolutely nowhere like Nick and Ray sleeping with the same stripper, and dialogue which is full of alpha male postering, we eventually get to a really clever and suspenseful extended robbery set piece which is one of the best of its kind in some time, and then a good shootout on the highway, though that’s about all the action the movie has, which isn’t nearly enough when much else is so pedestrian. Even the score by the usually excellent Cliff Martinez is bland. 50 Cent mumbles his way through another performance but O’ Shea Jackson displays far more acting chops than his dad ever did on screen. Den Of Thieves is never actually boring and will still probably just about entertain as long as you haven’t seen Heat, but it really is often quite stupid without seeming to actually appear to be aware of the fact.