Hot Take: One of those heist flicks where the bad guys are bad and the good guys are worse made by someone who watched Heat one too many times. Plus, 140 minutes? Really? You could nap through the second act and not miss a thing.
Does Gerard Butler have a following? That’s about the only reason I can come up with as to why Den of Thieves found its way into cineplexes across the country. The 140 minute heist thriller features Pablo Schreiber, 50 Cent, Evan Jones and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as the main members of a group of bank robbers and Butler as Big Nick, a corrupt LA sheriff hellbent on bringing the crew down. Within the bloated 140 minute tale, there’s enough material to make a halfway decent pilot for an episodic drama but that leaves over 90 minutes of filler that adds little to no value to the overall viewing experience.
The film starts out with the team of robbers led by Ray Merrimen (Schreiber) hijacking an empty armored truck. In the opening heist, the group escapes with the truck but kills one of the guards. This brings Big Nick (Butler) and his band of corrupt LA sheriffs onto the scene. They’re already familiar with Merrimen and also have eyes on a local bartender named Donnie (Jackson) who they suspect to be part of Merrimen’s crew. They press Donnie for information while entertaining a group of strippers or hookers or maybe they’re just corrupt cop groupies and almost kill Donnie before he gives up some information on Merrimen. Merrimen finds out the cops are aware because, well, Butler’s Big Nick is a dumb, cocky corrupt cop and he uses that to the group’s advantage in their attempt to rob the impenetrable Federal Reserve building.
That’s enough of a taste of the film for you to know what you’re in for. Realize it’s 140 minutes which, I guess, isn’t terrible if you’re trying to be Heat since Heat was a marathon-like 170 minutes. However, without the firepower of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and others, it’s hard for Den of Thieves to do anything more than look like a karaoke version of the 1995 classic. Jackson does deliver a strong performance, though, which gives him his third consecutive commendable role. His debut as his father Ice Cube in Straight Outta Compton was definitely his breakout but he has followed that with a solid supporting role in the highly underrated Ingrid Goes West and another good showing in the otherwise lackluster Den of Thieves.
Even considering its January release date, there’s not enough to merit heading to the theaters to see Den of Thieves. Beneath all of the testosterone, there’s not much of a movie here, especially not one to fill 2+ hours. It even builds to a completely unnecessary third act reveal that, in hindsight, makes the rest of the film make even less sense. Then again, maybe it would have worked if I cared about anything more than getting out of the theater at that point in the film.
You’re really enjoying the progression of O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s acting career and don’t want to miss any of his roles.
It’s pretty safe to say any film with a January release date is worth skipping.