Den of Thieves

‘Den of Thieves’ Review: Waste of Time

'Den of Thieves'

Movie Rating:


‘Den of Thieves’ may not be the worst heist movie ever made, but it sure feels like it at times. The genre should be rooted in great writing, requiring clockwork precision and structure to satisfy. That’s not generally the sort of assignment that should serve as the directorial debut for the screenwriter of ‘London Has Fallen’

It’s not so much that the film is particularly sloppy in its construction, just lazy and generic. It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to remember even while you’re watching it, as if your brain refuses to retain anything that happened in the flick for more than a few minutes at a time.

A tediously long series of introductory scenes set the stage (complete with character name cards laughably suggesting that we’ll remember any of these cardboard cut-outs for longer than the butt-numbing run time). A gang of thieves currently led by Levi (50 Cent) used to be the best in the biz, but are currently operating below their potential because the brains of the operation is in jail. Thankfully, he gets out just in time for the movie to start. He’s the goofily named Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) and he’s got dreams off pulling off a big job to make up for lost time. The requisite cop needed to complete this game of cops-and-robbers is Nick Flanagan (Gerard Butler). Caught in the middle of it all is a bartender named Donnie (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.). He’s supposed to be the gang’s new wheelman, but also gets blackmailed by Det. Flanagan to provide information from the inside. Yadda yadda yadda… a heist is scheduled to rob the Federal Reserve of $30 million. Let the games begin.

Right from the start, writer/director Christian Gudegast wants you to know he’s making a tough movie about tough guys. Everyone struts rather than walking, as if their monstrous penises are weighing them down. Every character swears as much as possible, drinks heavily, wears leather jackets, and frowns really super hard. It’s a movie about men – the kind that don’t exist outside of movies written by dudes who think their taste in culture should be an expression of their masculinity. Don’t worry, every character does some token nice thing for shading. For the baddies, it’s all rooted in one scene in which they intimidate 50 Cent’s daughter’s prom date, because that’s how bros help bros with daughters, bro. For Butler’s cop, it’s a series of increasingly irritating movie references (as if the movie was released in 1996) and collections of words that seem to resemble jokes without being funny. O’Shea Jackson has it easiest in the empathy department. He actually gets to smile a few times. That helps.

Because Gudegast is so determined to cram in as many monologues and long-winded character beats (signifying nothing) as possible, it takes way too damn long for the actual heist to be planned or executed. By the time it arrives, we realize why. It’s quite a dull scenario that steals liberally from far better heist movies and executes those stolen cues in a far less successful manner. (In perhaps the greatest plagiarizing sin in this whole mess of a movie, the climax knocks off the extraordinary traffic jam shoot-out from ‘Sicario’ and bungles it.) If you can’t see the big twist coming a mile away, you aren’t paying attention. Actually, if you can’t predict every beat in the movie before it happens, chances are you haven’t seen a movie before.

Beyond that, the film is as boringly shot and lazily staged. It looks ugly and cheap. It stretches on for at last 20 minutes too long. Most of that unnecessary running time is devoted to a subplot involving Gerard Butler’s wife that easily could have been removed were it not for the fact that Butler was the producer and got to keep in whatever he damn well pleased.

‘Den of Thieves’ is an absolute mess and disastrous disappointment for anyone who enjoys this genre. The only saving grace is the fact that O’Shea Jackson somehow overcomes it all and delivers another delightful supporting performance. If he’s this good in this crapheap, then clearly his talent is legitimate. Everything else about the movie is instantly disposable. Fortunately, ‘Den of Thieves’ will be forgotten by absolutely everyone in a week or so, even by those who had the misfortune of seeing or making the movie.


    • He did a voice in How to Train Your Dragon. 🙂

      The thing with Butler is that he may pick a lot of bad projects, but his acting is rarely cited as being the problem with them. People don’t hold the quality of his movies against him personally.

      • Ray

        Gerard Butler’s breakout role was KIng Leonidas in “300.”

        By the way, no matter how bad this film may be, I’m sure it’s much better than “The Last Jedi.” 🙂

          • Deaditelord

            I agree. I’m so sick of the continued whining about The Last Jedi in the comments section. I know this will come as a shock to these butthurt fanboys/fangirls, but some of us actually enjoyed the movie. Yet you don’t see us commenting about it after every post. As Chris said, give it a rest.

          • Ray

            To Chris B and Deaditelord:

            Just because I didn’t like the movie, it doesn’t make me a “butthurt fanboy” or “whiner.” Personal attacks like that should be banned here. So why don’t the both of you give it a rest?

            As for the movie, there are plenty of people who recognize that it was terrible, and we have a right to say so. If you don’t like it, then just ignore it.

          • Ray

            By the way, read Luke Hickman’s comment in the new “Weekend Roundtable” article. He said “With ‘The Last Jedi,’ Disney showed that it’s fully capable of fumbling the Star Wars brand.” Hickman is an HDD reviewer, so are you going to tell him to give it a rest or call him a “butthurt fanboy” or “whiner”? I’d sure hope not.

          • Luke wrote one negative review of the movie and made another comment about it in a Roundtable entry relevant to Star Wars. He has not repeatedly complained about that movie in the Comments sections of numerous other articles completely unrelated to the Star Wars franchise.

            You, on the other hand, have whined about Star Wars in our posts for Insidious: The Last Key, The Post, and now Den of Thieves. None of these have anything to do with Star Wars. Moaning about Star Wars in these comment threads amounts to trolling behavior. One or two instances, I can shrug off, but you’re really starting to push your luck.

            Find something else to talk about, or at least reserve your comments for posts that are appropriate for them. Thank you.

          • Chris B

            I get that, but you’re posting your complaints about The Last Jedi underneath a review of a completely different movie. If you wanna bitch endlessly about TlJ go do it on that particular thread and not on every new review Phil posts.

          • Deaditelord

            And that was what I was getting at too, although perhaps I was a little harsh about it in my earlier comment. I don’t have a problem with someone disliking the film and commenting about it like Luke did in his last post. My annoyance was with all the comments about it in irrelevant posts.

          • Ray

            Fine, I won’t post about it any more. The only reason I mentioned it was because all of those other movies–even “The Post”–received lower ratings from Phil than the 4 1/2 stars he gave to “The Last Jedi.” I find that astounding. But whatever. I’m done posting about it.

            My apologies to Josh and anyone else who was offended.

  1. Doug Amaturo

    It’s actually got some terrific scenes, and a cool reversal at the ending which, most likely, you didn’t see coming.

    And Gerard is a FANTASTIC actor. This review is far too extreme–

    BTW, the movie doesn’t look cheap at all, and in fact has incredible sweeping shots of LA.

    Striving to be a cross between HEAT and THE FRENCH CONNECTION is a tall order for any film/script/ director, but again this review was so unimaginably harsh–”worst heist movie of all-time”?


    Well, no. It isn’t

    Not by a long shot.

    I can name 5 other films in 5 seconds that are 10 billion times worse.

    With that, I’m signing out.


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