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Review: Den of Thieves

Gerard Butler stars in STX Films' DEN OF THIEVES

I was a bit surprised that we were actually getting a screening for Den of Thieves. On the surface, it doesn’t look like much at all. In fact, it looks like it could be one of those movies that wouldn’t even get a theatrical release. I guess that’s why so many wise old sayings are still relevant after being around for generations. As it turns out, this movie gave us just another example of why you shouldn’t always “judge a book by its cover.”

In Den of Thieves, we’re introduced to some of the most efficient and dangerous bank robbers in Los Angeles. Up until this point, they’ve been able to get what they want and have been a hard target for law enforcement in the city. In order to track them down, an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Department has been given the case with the hopes of upending the gang and putting a stop to their successful string of robberies.

As it turns out, Den of Thieves doesn’t work with every turn it takes in terms of plot. In actuality, some of what we get here could have been removed completely. Even if they aren’t always bad scenes or anything, removing them makes for a better, tighter movie that flows in a fashion that we would all benefit from. And since that didn’t happen, we’re handed something that at times feels uneven and too long.

I’m assuming a part of the reason why these features were included was because they wanted to develop certain characters a little. It makes sense since you want us to know more about who they are, but I feel there could have been a better way to accomplish this. Ultimately, most of this stuff is unnecessary and simply gets in the way of the most important storylines and events that are taking place.

One thing that stood out to me about these scenes and subplots was the one story that was a clear attempt at adding a touch of American Gangster into Den of Thieves. I point this out because a large chunk of this movie is clearly inspired by other movies that have come out before it. If you’re paying even a little bit of attention to what’s going on, you’ll see remnants of Heat, The Town and even a couple of missions from a certain Grand Theft Auto video game that’s floating around.

There’s even another movie from the 90s that Den of Thieves borrows from but I won’t say it since it might spoil the movie for you if you plan on watching it. What I will say is that while Den of Thieves isn’t better than the video game or the movies that I’m pointing out, it actually is entertaining for what it is. I wasn’t expecting to be satisfied with what I left the theater with, but I was and I’m happy that the people involved in the film tried as hard as they did.

Even when you think about it afterward, it’s easy to appreciate the thought put behind so much of it, as a large chunk of what’s included makes sense and follows a narrative that works effectively as it moves toward accomplishing its goal. In an era where it seems as if a growing number of people in the business are forgetting what makes movies good, it’s refreshing to see feature films being released that understand the value of structure, world building and entertainment when putting these things together.

While this benefits from most of what I’ve already spoken of, the gun fights and the heists also assist in making this worthwhile. They don’t happen as often as I would have liked, but when they do show up, they make a lasting impression and are the best parts of the entire feature. Most of these scenes are intense, thrilling and engaging. It’s hard to take your eyes off the screen as you want and maybe even need to see what’s going to occur if you’re into it.

Outside of the issues that Den of Thieves has, there’s a lot to like about what’s unfolding as the movie presses forward. Obviously, there are aspects of this film that should have been improved upon and/or completely removed. And when I watch it in the future, I’m likely going to skip by some of those unnecessary scenes as they take up too much time. As far as the rest of it, I’ll be watching with intent since it’s worthwhile and is able to succeed where ever it needs to find success.

Rating: R

Director: Christian Gudegast

Gerard Butler
Pablo Schreiber
O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Brian van Holt
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson

Film Length: 135 minutes

Release Date: January 19, 2018

Distributor: STX Films

  • 7/10
    Score - 7/10
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