Christian Gudegast directorial debut is yet another high-octane action flick that disappointingly fails to deliver on its lofty goals.
There’s something about a heist film that just always keeps audiences glued to their seats–it’s hard not to be. Crime films have always had a certain unspoken attraction to them. Perhaps it’s the vicarious adventure that we are experiencing. Further still, maybe it’s the swooning cinematic form that is as freewheeling and arousing as the narrative itself. In any case, this subgenre of a subgenre has always been a staple of cinema, coming to stand on its own two feet as an audience–and critic–favorite.
Whether it’s the adrenaline-fueled action sequences, the non-stop action, or the intrigue-driven game of cat and mouse, capers are fun-filled films that keep viewers constantly guessing and phenomenologically absorbed. It’s one of the few affective genres out there, causing clammy-palmed, heart-racing, fingernail-biting filmgoers everywhere to be enthralled by the narrative, characterization and profilmic techniques. It’s an arresting cinematic moment, one that few other subgenres are capable of matching. So expectations run high, to say the least.
Which is why it’s so disappointing to see Christian Gudegast’s Den of Thieves fail to hit the mark that it so earnestly attempts to strike. From the Michael Mann-inspired opening scene to the Ocean’s Eleven-style planning, Den of Thieves takes a pinch from nearly every caper that had come before it, but it also hardly adds anything new to the mix, ensuring that the film be a stale addition to an already saturated subgenre market. It makes for a regrettably boring experience, one that is is perhaps to be presumed when examining Gudegast’s previous works.
Den of Thieves marks Gudegast’s first time in the director’s chair, having previously penned the laughable A Man Apart and cliché-ridden London Has Fallen. Again, perhaps that a good indicator of what audience’s are to expect walking in to Den of Thieves–hackneyed sequences, one-dimensional stereotypes, and uninspired film form. It all but guarantees that Gudegast’s film seldom sets itself apart from the barrage of like-minded pictures that all attempt to achieve the same thing.
But what has to be commended is Gudegast’s effort. Whether it’s the rare lively performance from an invested Gerard Butler or the twist-and-turn-fueled narrative, Gudegast does try to move away from his caper-making colleagues. But sadly, many of the grand goals that the writer-director sets for himself are unsatisfying. And with an excessive hundred and forty minute runtime, it seems that this filmmaker is attempting to add breadth to his film with overblown and unnecessary exposition. Which is shame for had the film remained aware of its issues and inherent overdone tropes, perhaps then Gudegast’s newest film would actually be worth a watch in this dry, post-award season window.
Verdict: 2 out of 5
With its hackneyed narrative, bland characters, and eye-rolling sequences, Den of Thieves is yet another mediocre outing by writer-turned-director Christian Gudegast. Relying too heavily on old tropes and not enough on intriguing innovation, Gudegast’s newest film is a cliché that seldom achieves anything new or compelling. And while the filmmaker does attempt to raise the bar on several occasions, he is seldom successful, ensuring that this film rarely, if ever, hits a satisfying cinephilic node.