Starring Pablo Schreiber, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, O’Shea Jackson, Jr, Gerard Butler, Evan Jones, Brian Van Holt, Kaiwi Lyman, Dawn Olivieri, Mo McRae
Written and Directed by Christian Gudegast
Story by Christian Gudegast, Paul Scheuring
Cinematography by Terry Stacey
January film releases consist of holdovers from limited release awards films from December and the films that each studio doesn’t believe would perform well with critics and audiences. Every once in a while there is one film that exceeds expectations and that film is B-movie Den of Thieves.
Taking inspiration from Heat, mainly, Den of Thieves follows a notorious bank robber newly released from jail and the hell-bent cop who will stop at nothing to bring him down. Writer Christian Gudegast, who also serves as director and shares a story credit with Paul Scheuring, relies on clichéd story tropes to move the film forward. Big Nick, played by a thickly Gerard Butler, is a cop who bends the rules to his liking to get the answers he wants. Merriman, played menacingly by Pablo Schreiber, is a tough-as-nails ex-con who follows through on every promise he makes.
This is where the inspiration from Heat is felt. Gudegast models Big Nick and Merriman off of Pacino’s and De Niro’s characters, respectively. Schreiber is the stand-out, showcasing his talents as an action star and the chops to hold a drama together.
Gudegast doesn’t build either character as a hero or the villain, instead, he writes them both as morally ambiguous. There is no sense of satisfaction in rooting for either character to prevail.
There are times where the story goes in directions that rely heavily on coincidences and contrivances, such as a few scenes involving O’Shea Jackson Jr. As a whole, this isn’t too much of an issue by the end credits. Den of Thieves isn’t looking to win some awards.
The two action sequences that bookend the film are shot with care and effort, allowing space for the camera to flow and lending to a geographical map of where everyone is in relation to one another. These sequences don’t rely on Steadicam to present a faux-sense of realism, that’s left to the film’s sound design. Every gunshot has a weight to it and doesn’t sound like a stock soundboard thrown together last minute. If anything else, this film sounds great.
Gudegast directs a strong B-action flick that might gain popularity years’ down-the-line as a lesser Heat for a new generation.