When going for the big score, you have to go all in. With Den of Thieves, the story revolves around a group of thieves and members of the Major Crimes Unit in Los Angeles and how they will collide with each other while a seemingly impossible heist is being planned at the Federal Reserve Bank. Christian Gudegast serves as producer, writer and marks his directorial debut in a heist film that is more focused on its characters than wild and over-the-top action sequences and pays homage to numerous bank robbery themed films with Michael Mann’s Heat being the most easily recognizable.
The film begins with explaining that Los Angeles is the bank robbery capital of the world and even list the statistics of how often they occur. An armored car is attacked by a group of masks wearing men who are packing some serious firepower and are clear on their demands. A shootout occurs between the robbers and the LAPD which results in some fatalities. The leader of the team Ray Merriman (Pablo Schrieber) doesn’t want any unnecessary bloodshed and wants to complete the operation as quickly as possible.
A couple of hours later Nick O’Brien (Gerard Butler) arrives on the scene. He’s a gritty LA Sheriff who wants this crew as much as the next guy. While working the case trying to identify the suspects, he also deals with his wife Debbie (Dawn Olivieri) and the struggle of their failing marriage. He’s a tough guy and also a smartass who provides some unexpected comedic moments throughout the film.
The crew consists of Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who knows how to drive, Levi (50 Cent), Bosco (Evan Jones), and Mack (Cooper Andrews). Together this team is not only good at what they do, they are patient. The script by Gudegast creates smart villains who utilize their skills to get their job done. What’s interesting is that Gudegast has created a film that shows the audience the process of the crime instead of intense shootouts and there are some good ones here and it isn’t overdone.
Den of Thieves doesn’t take any cheap shots either. The script allows the audience to follow the characters and tell both sides of the story. One from the law and one from the outlaws. Gudegast has some cool camera moves and as the film plays along we see the references from films such as Heat, The Town, and The Usual Suspects (one film that I haven’t seen yet). One thing that is surprising is the runtime being two hours and twenty minutes. At first, I was bewildered at that, but the film never felt boring or moments that had me glancing at my watch. The pacing kept me in my seat wondering what was going to happen next.
Verdict 5 out of 5
Den of Thieves is a gritty bank robbery film that is without question an inspiration from other great movies of its genre. Butler and Schrieber will never match the iconic duo of Pacino and De Niro from Heat but they don’t have to. Their characters have their motivations and the performances are well done. O’Shea Jackson Jr and 50 Cent also do great work here. I think Den of Thieves will be an overlooked film due to its runtime and not many A-list stars, but it’s one not to miss. Gudegast’s script is smart, funny and entertaining as hell. Den of Thieves may not go down as one of the most memorable heist films, but it’s definitely one to not pass up.