By: Jonathan Pabico
There are certain films you should steer clear of every year. Den of Thieves is one of those films. This recent heist movie was not as good as I thought it would be, even with its minor nuances. Its shortcomings were a reminder that your expectation of enthralling action story can easily fall away and never return.
The main premise of the film was undermined by unanswered questions and irksome situations too convenient to believe. The film’s climactic heist had cliche twists similar to Fast Five, resulting in a lack of any surprising intricacies. Even the build-up to that heist was painfully gradual. The narrative structure was impeded by irrelevant scenes and plot points that sadly amounted to lifeless filler content that harm the movie’s overall quality.
The beginning hit hard and fast with a thrilling action sequence, but the middle dragged on, especially when the story digressed and examined the family lives of some characters. Uncomfortable comic relief in some scenes, coupled with unwanted drama in others, were almost unbearable to watch. With awkward timing and delivery that offered nothing to the film, these scenes could have been omitted entirely. Instead, they destroyed the startling momentum that the movie’s intense start worked so hard to achieve. The story failed miserably to surpass gritty heist films that have come before, such as The Town and Triple 9.
Gerard Butler was passable in this film, but he could have been better. Butler’s performance as a hard-boiled, chain-smoking Los Angeles sheriff, gunning after the film’s thieves, was hindered by his character’s immature behaviour and uninspiring dialogue throughout the film. Many other characters were two-dimensional. A small role from rapper 50 Cent (whom I haven’t seen since his cameo in Spy) barely registered in an already shallow plot. There were some good moments in this film, but not enough to save it from the story’s simplicity and predictable ending. For instance, an interrogation scene between Butler and newcomer O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s characters rebuilt the momentum after the film’s first action scene, but it was lost again as the narrative progressed into its climax.
The action in Den of Thieves is good, if you don’t mind the loud gunfire in the film’s shootouts that disorient you rather than providing captivating action scenes. What you see is what you get: an unimpressive bank robbery film that, together with dry characters and a simple plot, offer no breakthroughs for the heist genre — only loud sprays of bullets and lacklustre twists.