If you glance at Gerard Butler’s filmography, you’ll tend to notice a pattern that emerges. To sum it off, the actor is THE definition of hit and miss. It seems like one movie is makes is meh or terrible, and then the next one is quite serviceable or solid while not quite being fantastic or a masterpiece (one could argue the closest he’s ever gotten to that would be 300). For example, in 2009 he had three movies, The Ugly Truth, Law Abiding Citizen, and Gamer. Shitty film, pretty decent, shitty film. Or how about lets go to 2006 to 2008 with 300, P.S. I love You, and RocknRolla. Very good film, shitty film, decently solid. You can do that all over with his career. Now let’s get to present from 2016 to now. You have London Has Fallen, Geostorm, and now DEN OF THIEVES. Not too bad if enjoyable sequel, shitty film, a very, very solid yet not grand heist/crime film. In other words, yes, I am recommending Den of Thieves even though at times it tries to hard to be Michael Mann’s Heat and in some parts, completely rips it off.
What the marketing does very well is not even remotely hint at the huge twist the film has at the end of it. I knew something fishy was going on, but the end result kind of had me stunned. That is all I’m going to say on that matter. The movie stars Gerard Butler as a leader of a Major Crimes Unit Task Force assigned to bring down L.A.’s most successful bank robbery crew. The crew contains a lot of unknowns like Pablo Schreiber, but you might recognize Curtis ’50’ Cent Jackson, who doesn’t really do all that much in the film, and Ice Cube’s clone…errr I mean son, O’shea Jackson Jr., who is becoming quite the figure in films just like his father did. But the movie mainly works because of Gerard Butler, who is so fucking good in this, I have rarely seen him better. This is probably his best performance and one alongside Leonidas and Mike Banning that I’ll probably remember forever. He sold me with his first scene, and just kept selling me and selling me each and every scene after that.
The film is actually pretty enjoyable, and at 2 hours and 20 minutes, I didn’t feel it at all. Sure, there were some unnecessary scenes that could’ve been trimmed. I really didn’t need Gerard Butler’s characters’ family life brought into this, all it did was kind of assure the audience that while he is good at his job and not dirty as a cop, he makes his life dirty by cheating on his wife, but then is really nice to his kids. Instead of unnecessary scenes that sort of dragged down the movie a bit, it could’ve been explained in one line of dialogue. Yeah, that’s 20 minutes right there that could’ve been cut. Although I did like the scene where he signs his wife’s divorce papers. I understand what they were trying to do, bring some humanity and flaws to his character, but they were too cliched and just really didn’t work.
Come to think of it, there really isn’t that much characterization in the film. There is one scene with the criminals family life that feels like a rip off of a better scene in Bad Boys II (you’ll know it when you see it). You see them with their family and that is it, that one little scene, and then you really don’t see them again, and why bring them into it if you aren’t going to show their reactions to the fates of some of the characters at the end of the film? What was the point of their scenes? The acting is good, just the writing in of some scenes to bring some background to the characters seemed really last minute, although O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s character gets a little bit interesting in the 2nd half of the film. Also, a lot of the scenes and interactions of the characters feel too much like Michael Mann’s film Heat and even comes close to completely ripping some of those scenes off.
Ok, this doesn’t seem like a recommendation review does it? Let’s get to the good stuff. The film is very entertaining. The last 40-45 minutes along where a heist takes place is so solid that I could just watch those 45 minutes as an amazing little action-y mini film. The tension is brought to a high level and I didn’t have a clue to what was going to happen next. The film made me think, “wait, weren’t they going to try and rob the federal reserve? what are they doing here?” Everything in those last 45 minutes comes together so beautifully, I was wondering why this film was dumped in January. Seems more like a decent late March or April film to me. Definitely not in the same league as 12 Strong or Insidious 4. After seeing the crap action in 12 Strong, it was refreshing to see a first time director, Christian Gudegast, take his experience from writing films and takes his vision and actually control the camera correctly and film some very strong action scenes.
That along with Gerard Butler, I am recommending this crazy little heist flick even though Rotten Tomatoes and a lot of critics really, really disagree with me. My friend Kim, who sees a lot of films with me, her “ass out to pass out” rule always in effect, she was on the edge of her seat the entire time, didn’t even nudge her ass out a little to the left or right once. Oh, and the twist, loved the twist. It’s definitely a film I plan on watching again, it is really that enjoyable and fun. And sometimes, fun is all I ask for.