Den of Thieves

The primary heist in Den of Thieves involves concepts from superior crime thrillers of the past.

At best, this derivative saga of cops and robbers is a passable genre movie with a handful of stylish shootouts, chase sequences and other confrontations bridged together by a lackluster screenplay that turns convoluted and predictable.

After rattling off some true-life statistics about bank robberies, the story opens in Los Angeles, where a crew led by loose-cannon schemer Ray (Pablo Schreiber) and his loyal enforcer (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) hold up an armored truck.

The theft catches the attention of Nick (Gerard Butler), who heads up the Major Crimes unit of the local sheriff’s department. Nick has a troubled personal life, but feeds off the adrenaline rush from the more perilous aspects of his job, especially the gamesmanship involving such an audacious adversary.

Meanwhile, Ray’s ultimate target is the Hollywood branch of the Federal Reserve, a lucrative target that’s eluded many other criminal hopefuls. Nick tries to stay one step ahead by roughing up Donnie (O’Shea Jackson), who works as a bartender between gigs driving for Ray and knows the consequences for turning into an informant.

The film resembles a lesser-grade version of Michael Mann’s Heat, which benefited from top-shelf talent on both sides of the camera to elevate its more formulaic elements.

This effort, by contrast, is all testosterone-fueled swagger and tough-guy posturing, without much meaningful character development as the lines blur between heroes and villains. The meandering screenplay by rookie director Christian Gudegast takes itself too seriously in a misguided quest to elevate the stakes.

Although the two lead actors bring charisma to the cat-and-mouse proceedings, the result fails to distinguish itself either visually or narratively, even if the extended climactic robbery is mildly suspenseful as long as you don’t scrutinize the logic behind it all. There’s not much time spent on motives or on explaining the ridiculous twist at the end.

Den of Thieves provides modest insight into the inner workings of an elaborate high-tech criminal operation, although it’s ultimately more talk than action — and more brawn than brains — leading up to the inevitably bullet-riddled final showdown.


Rated R, 140 minutes.