Den of Thieves movie review: Gerard Butler's latest is trashy entertainment in guise of cop drama

Mihir Fadnavis

Feb,03 2018 13:40 10 IST


When you watch a movie with Gerard Butler in it you get some sort of a package deal — ludicrous plotting, over the top macho action, cheesy lines and a general disregard for cinematic intelligence. This is very much the case with his new film Den of Thieves, another round of trashy entertainment under the guise of police action drama.

The film is directed by Christian Gudegast, who previously wrote the grotesque London Has Fallen, so predictably we get the unshaven grungy hero archetype saving the world from even grungier villains. This time Butler plays a police detective named Big Nick who leads a sort of an elite quad that is deployed to catch elite gangsters. An armoured truck is attacked as part of a heist by Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), the leader of a gang who makes off with the truck with an even bigger plan in mind. Big Nick has to assemble his team, deal with his stereotypically irritating ex wife (Dawn Oliviery) and hinder the villain’s villainous villainy.

Still from Den of Thieves

Still from Den of Thieves

The problem is everything about the film is cliché, right from the prototypical characters, to the plot twists which includes the innocent looking guy who turns out to be a big player, to the standard issue gun play with triggers being pulled by sweaty muscular men, to boring car chases where the car swerves and careens when it doesn’t need to, and many more beats that make the film look like a rejected script from the '90s. It is reminiscent of 2016’s John Hillcoat flick Triple 9 which also dealt dumb blows despite having an air of avante garde cinema. Contrast this to Ben Affleck’s amazing The Town which constantly found new ways to deliver thrills, drama and characters in a cliché setting. The difference between the two films is literally the touch of a director who prefers finesse and silences instead of tonal noise.

The film also tries to emulate sequences from Michael Mann’s classic Heat, including the epic moment where the master cop finally meets the master goon — but there is no intensity because of the way the film is lit, nor in the performances so it resembles a high school play by a student who watched Heat a bunch of times on TV.

Maybe this film needed someone like Nicholas Cage to truly embrace its B-movie sensibilities — it could have made at least for a much less serious watch. Maybe it’s time Hollywood looked away from home and noticed the kind of stuff the Brazilians and the Italians are making in the cops and robbers genre — Gomorrah and Suburra, both of which are TV shows on Netflix are far more powerful than this supposed big stakes action thriller. If there’s anything this film does, it gives you new found respect for Denis Villeneuve for crafting an interesting new take on the genre in Sicario, and if you’ve seen the trailer of the sequel you’re better off waiting to invest in that film rather than this one.

Published Date: Feb 03, 2018 13:40 PM | Updated Date: Feb 03, 2018 13:40 PM