Robbing banks, a past time for many characters in Hollywood and often the setting for a very engaging story line. Early renditions of this movie often added a little comedy to the atmosphere at the preposterous lengths they have to go to score the big score. As tastes have matured though, the crime genre has strapped on a more violent, angst-filled, gun fest where the darker the tale, the more you wail. Welcome to another Robbie’s movie review and tonight I set my sights on Den of Thieves, a movie with leading man Gerard Butler taking point to get you into the theater. What’s in store for this semi-advertised movie? Read on to find out.
Good Acting: You want angst filled cops and vengeful mercenaries, look no further, because this cast has you covered with their skills. Gerard Butler still has the candid cop role down, utilizing his gruff and ire of Leonidas, without the abs or honor. It works so well as an entertaining character, one you might enjoy as you watch him unload his full might into the epic crime case at hand. His supporting cast amplifies the rogue cop team aspect, saying little, but at least providing the looks. Pablo Schreiber has the villain role down pat as well, cut throat and to the point, but also strategic and in control of his emotions. The culmination is a respectable villain, whose portrayal is so calculating you don’t know what Schreiber went through to capture it. Finally, O’Shea Jackson Jr. gets props for his role as Donnie, another character that is complex and stuck between two worlds and having to adjust to two situations. He pulls off the mannerisms and emphasis well crafting the third big character of the film.
The Character Chemistry: While the acting brings each character to life, it’s the direction and writing that really makes these characters shine for me. Donnie, Merriman, and Big Nick have that awkward triangle relationship going, trading love and friendship for a crazy game of manhunt and keeping secrets. Much like Catch Me If You Can, Den of Thieves is a darker twist to the crime chasing thriller, with a rivalry that calls for each character to up the ante to go for the score and obtain their goals. Numerous audience members reacted to the tactics they threw out, often aimed at the other’s personal life to hit them hard. How low will they go? You don’t know, but it creates some suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Multiple Levels: A good crime movie is clever, tricky, and often convoluted to minimize the chances of the plan actually working. Den of Thieves accomplishes this complexity quite well, with the title acting as a symbol for all the deceit contained in this movie. While certainly vengeful, the strategies of Big Mike and Merrimen are like a massive scale chess game, each move trying to draw their opponents out in an attempt to divert from the real goal at hand. And the identity of that underlying goal is constantly changing, each revelation peeling a layer back until the core is finally revealed at the end. Those fans of crime shows are going to enjoy this, because it is that plot only bigger.
Well Detailed: This movie accomplishes the crime story telling quite well. The characters are pretty well developed and they get points for expanding upon the generic roles we have seen in countless media. However, what I really appreciated, was seeing the dots connected, no stone left unturned in explaining how the entire plan connected. All the cronies, all the planning, every detail accounted for in this grand scheme. I like a movie that tells a complete story, and Den Of Thieves accomplished this task.
Language: A minor dislike, the band of thieves and cops fall victim to expletive heavy dialogue once more. Every ounce of frustration is represented in some curse word, often leaning towards the F-Bomb, but occasionally diverting to another term in the limited glossary. Happily, most of it is relevant to the dialogue and not too overdone.
Big Nick’s Tangents: When Nick is engaged in the battle of wits, the story moves and things seem relevant. While I applaud the attempt at expanding his character, Mike’s personal life does not fit well into the whole depth of the movie. Outside of painting some personal problems he has, these issues don’t get too much in the way of his job. So why did we dive into these issues? Is it some personal growth they are trying to set up? Is it a means to develop a plot device to be utilized later? No, it seems like it was just some expansion on the run time and a way to chisel away from the rogue cop physique. Had it been left out, probably would have resulted in about thirty minutes cut out, which would have been good.
More Action: The trailers paint this to be a high velocity crime chase and I had such high hopes for this to be the case. It showed promise with the opening scene, the firefight that gets the tale started being intense, exciting, and even better… not one sided. After the adrenaline rush ebbs, you see the suspense building, and at parts it seems things are going to come to full boil. And then things fizzle out and you are left with more dialogue and drama until the final fifteen-minute bout at the end. These moments are awesome, but Den Of Thieves could have really used a few more exciting features to keep things on the edge and speed things up.
Overall, Den Of Thieves is a more concentrated version of the cable crime shows that fill the mainstream line up. This dark tale is ready to keep you on your toes, as the tennis match of skill, deceit, and vendetta filled antics makes for an interesting twist on these casual roles. However, the biggest selling factor is the complexity of the film and tumbling down the rabbit hole. The things that bring this movie down for me are the need for more action and some useless tangents that don’t add much to the story. As such, this brings the movie down a peg in terms of excitement and added some unnecessary minutes to an already long movie. Still, the convoluted tale is enough to be theater worthy and I recommend a visit on this one.
My scores are:
Movie Overall: 7.0