Watched four movies yesterday will doing custom wallpapers all day. It was a good day. It’s been a good week of movie watching.

Den of Thieves
Director: Christian Gudegast
Writers: Christian Gudegast, Paul Scheuring
Staring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, 50 Cent, O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Release Date: January 19, 2018

I am ashamed that it took me so long to see Den Of Thieves (2018). So disappointed in myself. I was worried that this would be like a 21 Bridges (2019) in terms of generality and a single star carrying most of the weight. (Still haven’t seen 21 Bridges because Chadwick Boseman does not excite me nearly enough. I’ll wait till it’s streaming somewhere.) Well, let me tell you, Den Of Thieves is a step above the generic bank heist movie. In fact, it is stealing the spotlight from surprisingly appealing action crime movies.

An unanswerable question may be how many heist movies did director and writer Christina Gudegast pay homage to in Den Of Thieves? The movie hits numerous clichés and touchstones…and that is totally okay.

We have the charismatic yet relatively unknown villain Ray Merrimen, who is played wonderfully by Pablo Schreiber. Merrimen’s backstory is not 100% flushed out, but all we know is that he is in the life and crime and he can not leave it. He is relatively good at it and is not going to ever get caught without a fight.

The audience gets to know Rey’s crew on a perfectly minimalistic level. This is most notable in Enson Levoux, played by 50 Cent. His job is to appear menacing speak with grunts and facial expressions. Enson is the obedient muscle, and he does it well. But in a textbook small dose of connectivity, we get to see him intimidate his daughter’s prom date which shows that he loves and cares for the protection of his family. It is a throw away scene, but one that effortlessly hits the mark.

Now on the hero side, we get the flawed protagonist ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien, played by Gerard Butler. I honestly do not know if anyone else could have played this cop dirt bag. And I mean dirt bag in the best way possible. It really appears like Butler bought all the stripper sparkles and took baths in them to get in character for ‘Big Nick’. He is like a roided out high school jock; ugly, susceptible to mood-swings and impossible to look away from. Butler’s performance in Den Of Thieves is his most memorable and committed since Olympus Has Fallen (2013) (which is generous, I know) or 300 (2006).

There is a separate blog post that follows the career of Gerard Butler. I do not know if his arc is like any other actor in recent memory. He had the baton and was named the final sprinter in a race to stardom before it appears like someone stepped onto the track and tripped him along the way. Not saying Butler has had a bad career, but no means is that what I am saying, but I wish he could have immediate action-hero recognition like Jason Statham.

Back to Den Of Thieves. The back-and-forth between the two gulags of people makes this movie better than most. We spend time with the criminals and their club, as well as the police, who are just despicable as the men they are chasing at times. Who is sleezier, the bank robbers, or ‘Big Nick’ and is personal demons?

Arguably the most rewatchable scene in the movie comes when Donnie Wilson (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) is first picked up by the cops and brought into the cheap ass hotel room. When the camera first pans the room, it is only fair to think that O’Brien is in cahoots with a bad crowd of his own criminals. In fact, he does say he is in his won clique…his own gang…only they have badges. Little does O’Brien and his fellow members of law enforcement know that Donnie is playing with some aces up his sleeve.

The worst part of the movie is the time dedicated to O’Brien’s backstory. Literally, from looking at Nick the first time he appears on screen when he is housing a donut, we know he does not do well at home. We don’t need his 6 AM return home, fight with the wife and yell in front of their kids sequence. Do we need Nick going over to confront his ex-wife (Dawn Olivieri) and confronting she and her new boyfriend in an overly swank kitchen? Probably not, but it does give us the hug it out, “we’ll save a fortune in therapy” moment. So that is at least tolerable.

While Butler is acting like he is huffing the finest of over-acting drugs, the biggest winner of the movie is Schrieiber. He is so freaking cool. Like straight up cool as a cucumber, specially under pressure. Over the final 30 minutes of the movie, Merrimen increases his stock on the all-time bank robber heist draft board. In the car stuck in traffic, every single possible thing that could be said and conveyed is done so in the fewest words possible. It mirrors his few words at the start of the movie when he stated: “We are cop killers now.”

The two have many confrontations throughout the story, probably more than are ever realistic if we are being honest. O’Brien is a straight asshole to Merrimen and his family at a Benihana of all places! I want to believe this whole scene was improvised by Butler. O’Brien just goes off the rails. He goes unhinged like an athlete being put on the bench when he doesn’t want to be. Merrimen is the coach, just trying to keep it or cordial, but you know deep down he is SIZZLING with anger.

It should be said that Merrimen gets the upper hand in the gun range when he shows off his marksmanship in what is really a test of manliness.

I really don’t get how O’Brien wanted to get out of all these meetings. He does not get in Merrimen’s head at all. Ehh, who cares though! The scenes work, grab your attention and will remain YouTube searches in the future.

The final shootout of Den Of Thieves is all too much an homage to Heat (1995), much like the entire movie. Loud gun fire, pedestrians in danger, minor characters getting a chance to shine and two major characters having one final showdown. It is the stitching of any good action movie, and there is good reason for it. Do not change it. Let it be.

There is a classic twist at the end of Den Of Thieves which is going to result in a sequel WHICH I PERSONALLY AM BEYOND EXCITED FOR. Not worth spoiling here because to anyone who hasn’t seen this sure-to-be Netflix rewatchable classic…you need to stop reading this and go view it NOW. Den Of Thieves scratches everyone action movie itch with ecstatic satisfaction.

STANKO RATING:  B+ (3.5/5 Stars)

“Den Of Thieves” IMDB
“Den Of Thieves” Rotten Tomatoes

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