Film: "Den of Thieves"
Director: Christian Gudegaast
Cast: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Brian Van Holt, Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson III, Evan Jones, Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau, Moe McRae, Maurice Compte
"Den of Thieves" is a convolutedly narrated heist film that involves concepts from other superior crime thrillers of the past.
With a handful of stylish shootouts, chase sequences and other confrontations bridged together by a lacklustre screenplay, this over-the-top crime saga is a predictable derivative saga of cops and robbers.
The film begins with some onscreen graphics informing us about some true-life statistics about bank robberies in the US.
Apparently, a bank robbery occurs every 48 minutes there. Given this information, one expects that the opening sequence in Los Angeles would give us an adrenaline-packed thrilling insight into one such robbery. But instead, we witness a run-of-the-mill heist of an armoured truck by a very well armed gang of thieves.
This dacoity is led by Ray Merriman (Pablo Schreiber) a one-time special forces soldier and criminal mastermind and cohorts including Enson (Curtis "50 Cents Jackson) and Bosco (Evan Jones).
Despite the robbers' military precision, there are fatalities on both sides. And to the amusement of his colleagues, Ray mentions, "We are cop killers now."
The case catches the attention of the Major Crimes unit of the local Sheriff's department, led by Nick Flanagan (Gerard Butler) who is also known as "Big Nick" among his co-workers. While surveying the scene of the crime, we learn that he is at loggerheads with the head of FBI. At the same time, he is wary and anxious as he gravely says, "We're dealing with a different animal here, boys."
To top it all, Nick has a troubled personal life. He tells us that he and his unit are bad guys and there's no reason to doubt that claim.
The battle of wills between Ray and Nick aspires an epic level, but the characters exhibit far less real respect for one another. The bad blood incorporates a personal element where both Ray and Nick casually indulge in sex with the same person.
Personal foibles apart, Ray and his team eye the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve. In order to succeed in their endeavour, they rope in a genial bartender Donnie (O'Shea Jackson Jr) who is skilled in speed racing. But Nick who tries to stay a step ahead of Ray, roughs up Donnie who knows the consequences of turning into an informer.
The plot takes a convoluted route. It oscillates back and forth between the two sides, offering would-be poignant exchanges. It teases the audience unnecessarily with personal issues and wastes precious time that could have been spent on the tense heist and its explosive aftermath, which is where the viewer wants to be.
The execution in these moments is thrilling, although muddied by a final plot twist. There is not much time spent on motives or on explaining the ridiculous twist at the end. Also, parts of the film remind you of scenes in "The Usual Suspects" and the 1995 released film "Heat".
As for the performances, despite packed with testosterone-fuelled swagger and tough guy posturing by its ace-cast, the poorly developed characters are its undoing. Without much meaningful character development, the lines between heroes and villains blur. While the film majorly focuses on Butler and Pablo Schreiber who deliver compelling performances, the others too have their moments of onscreen glory.
Though the story lacks in originality, it displays more brawn than brains and excels in its production values. The production designs, cinematography, editing and background-score are all of ace quality.