Christian Gudegast’s Den of Thieves doesn’t ever seem to break new ground but yet it remains engaging throughout. Heist films are like gold robberies, there are plenty of efforts at doing one but only a select few make it. Den of Thieves tries a few new things but ends up recycling a lot of the tried and tested heist film beats.
The Heat-style head to head between the criminal and the investigating cop, incorporating a closeness that doesn’t usually get seen in these type of stories. Now, a comparison between Den of Thieves and Michael Mann’s Heat obviously would leave Den of Thieves trailing in the 1995 classic’s wake, but this still remains a decent film all things considered.
Pablo Schreiber is doing so well for himself recently and he comes out with a big plus to his name here as the leader Ray Merrimen. Big Nick (Gerard Butler) is quite a hackneyed character: the hard drinking, womanising, rule breaking cop doing whatever it takes to bring down the bad guys and it feels like it here. Surely there has to be a better idea about what investigating officers can be like to make them interesting? But no, here we get all the vices rolled into one. Big. Nick. Also, any heist with a plan is only as good as its team and putting in a good shift here as members of the stealin’ crew are O’Shea Jackson Jr as Donnie and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Enson.
The heist planning and build up are actually really well done, creating an aura of believability and effort to their plan that, in the end, it could actually work and that they’d manage to stay one step ahead of the police and most importantly, escape with the dough. On top of that, when the plan eventually comes playing out on the screen, it had some real moments of tension and breath-holding.
Some really good action sequences, some good planning (as any heist film should have) and a good proliferation of characters (although the “crew” on either side could have had more personality to compliment the two big dogs. At times it does descend a bit too much into the macho side of things: the proliferation of guns being a little bit over the top, especially when heists should be all about the planning and outsmarting the opposition!
Den of Thieves, for all the good it has, ends up feeling like someone said, “Triple 9 was a good idea but wasn’t really well received. Let’s throw some Heat in there as well. That’s bound to make it work!” and it kind of does but don’t expect too much from it.