Christian Gudegast’s Den of Thieves is a stereotypical cops ‘n’ robbers thriller without all that much thrill.
‘In Los Angeles, a bank is robbed every 48 minutes’, so the opening credits of Den Of Thieves claim. Ex-convict Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) and his experienced gang of criminals intend to add to those statistics by “robbing the only bank that’s never been robbed”: the LA Federal Reserve. It’s an ambitious heist that police chief ‘Big Nick’ (Gerard Butler) and his ruthless team intend to stifle.
Director Christian Gudegast pits Schreiber and Butler against one another in a contest that aims to emulate Pacino and De Niro in 1995 heist hit Heat. Gudegast intends for the audience to be torn between these two opposing camps, however the lack of character development leaves you caring little for the fortunes of either. Pablo Schreiber is certainly the stronger of the two, with Butler struggling to convincingly convey Big Nick’s softer side. Straight Outta Compton‘s O’Shea Jackson Jr. provides a competent performance as the most likeable ‘baddie’, while 50 Cent tends to mumble through many of his lines – not that this is an issue as there’s plenty of dialogue that ought to be cut anyway.
The almost entirely male cast makes Den Of Thieves very macho, and an air of homophobia and misogyny lingers across the entire film. The women who are granted screen time are placed in secondary roles as domesticated wives, strippers and pole-dancers. However, unlike Gudegast and Butler’s woeful London Has Fallen, Den of Thieves does achieve a fittingly gritty landscape. It’s weird, then, that Gudegast chooses to signpost obvious details with seemingly random titling. Locations, characters names, days of the week; all overtly labelled. Indeed, you half expect him to throw in a director’s commentary just to ensure punters are following.
Ultimately, Den of Thieves is exactly what you expect: a high-octane crime thriller that spits out some dramatic action sequences alongside all the usual stereotypes, and pales in comparison to 2017’s Baby Driver. If it’s a fix of Los Angeles chaos you’re after, you might be better off staying at home and playing Grand Theft Auto instead.