Review – Blokey thrills are not enough to save ‘Den of Thieves’ from itself

Poster for 2018 crime thriller Den of Thieves

Genre: Crime
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 2nd February 2018
Runtime: 140 minutes
Director: Christian Gudegast
Writer: Christian Gudegast
Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, Curtis Jackson, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Dawn Olivieri, Evan Jones, Cooper Andrews
Synopsis: A hard-drinking cop tries to stay one step ahead of a highly proficient LA criminal gang, with an ambitious plot to steal from the Federal Reserve.



Is there such thing as a movie cop who drinks in moderation? It seems that big screen lawmen are either in an enforced teetotal state or inhale so many bottles of whiskey that their bloodstream is mainly Bourbon. It was that thought that occupied my mind for much of the seemingly endless running time of Den of Thieves, which is a tedious slice of misogynistic pistol porn that leaves absolutely nothing behind after the enormous clouds of dust have settled. This is a heist movie where the heist is secondary to the half an hour of machine gun fire that comes afterwards.

The protagonist is maverick cop ‘Big Nick’ – yes, really – played by Gerard Butler with a gravelly voice, a devil-may-care approach to the rules and a disposition so self-consciously macho that he can’t tell the difference between vegetarian and vegan. Along with his close-knit team, he’s on the hunt for a notorious gang led by Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) and his right-hand man Levi (Curtis Jackson). In order to find out what the team members are planning, Nick leans on their getaway driver Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr), who reveals they have a major heist in the pipeline.

Den of Thieves is yet another example of Butler’s run of bone-headed action movies. This time, though, it comes with the mammoth running time of an elegant crime opus. It certainly has enough plot to fill that timespan twice over, but that also makes it an incomprehensible mess of tangled threads that don’t even come close to clicking together, even when a final twist pulls the rug out from under everyone. The issue is that the semi-intriguing resolution comes after a third act packed to the brim with endless, brain-deadening machine gun battles that leave behind a body count akin to the last half an hour of Les Misérables.

Logic is left at the door throughout this movie, with Butler’s unit seemingly allowed to operate without any sort of oversight from above. Any attempt at coherence is thrown aside to indulge in crime movie clichés, whether it’s the aforementioned cops who ‘don’t play by the rules’, the requisite strip club scene or a bizarre and concerning moment in which a little girl is allowed to talk to a strange bearded man through the school gates, in a misguided shot at providing emotional resonance.

This is a film that aims itself squarely at a target audience and it’s certainly easy to see how that particular audience might enjoy the bursts of action. However, Den of Thieves is constantly redolent of far better movies, including in a traffic jam gunfight reminiscent of Sicario‘s remarkably tense highlight, and there’s no escaping the feeling that this is just Heat after undergoing a lobotomy. In fact, it’s probably easier to enjoy if you’ve had part of your brain scooped out.



Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

Gerard Butler shouts, swears and spits his way through hyper-macho crime thriller Den of Thieves. It’s a cliché-driven movie that seems to go on forever to the constant soundtrack of automatic weaponry. There are tattooed biceps and musclebound bodies to spare in a violent caper that manages to turn high-stakes criminality into the stuff of soul-destroying tedium.


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