January, the month of despair and tears in the world of cinema, is the time all film fans dread. The dumping ground for Hollyweird generally brings watered down horror films, paint-by-numbers Liam Neeson action films, and random haphazard attempts at career revivals like Katherine Heigl or Halle Berry movies that only possess the positive trait of being forgetful. If you are an occasional moviegoer this can all be avoided as the Oscar films slowly find their wider releases in January and early February and if planned correctly these can overshadow the dreck of January nightmares.
But, particularly in the last few years, there has been a gem or two that was forgotten in this month of shame and actually manages to bring hope back into our lives. For example, Paddington 2 is a January release that seems to have missed its proper release date in about five months from now. Is Den of Thieves a redemptive January release come to save the day (month)? Not exactly. But I’m happy and surprised to say that it’s far superior than most abortions released this month but falters far too often to leap from decent to great.
I would say one of its greatest weaknesses is its awareness of films like it that have come before, unmistakably its admiration for the Michael Mann directed thriller, HEAT. Rather than give homage and respect to this film, it spends nearly two and a half hours trying to recreate it without it being a full blown attempt at a remake. Down to the protagonist’s weapon of choice, DOT is for the most part a lackluster mirror of better films that have come before it. That said, accepting its faults leads to a film with decent characters, an actual attempt at story and character arcs, and some fantastic action sequences that make a film that could have ended up as dismal with little surprise of that outcome, actual worthwhile popcorn entertainment. DOT has a similar effect for me as a previous cops/robbers film Triple 9; it’s nothing special but it’s entertaining and I would watch it again when I’m in the mood for an action film without too much promise of depth or insight.
In the beginning of HEAT, a heist on an armored truck occurs. In the beginning of Den of Thieves, a heist on an armored truck occurs. In HEAT, the main protagonist is a fierce detective but lousy husband. Den of Thieves… you see where this is going. While it does pull from other films, HEAT is unquestionably the inspiration behind this, let’s call it a love letter to Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
We’ve seen films rip off other better films and we watched as they went up in failure flames but this is where DOT is kind of difficult to place. It’s a rip off sure but it isn’t bad either. It’s nothing compared to the films it emulates but I found myself thoroughly entertained and that confuses me. It’s complete lack of original thought should make me hate it but somehow it just sort of works. Basically if you’re okay with seeing a film take from much better material and repackage it then Den of Thieves is a perfectly viable action thriller that if nothing else will entertain you while you watch it even if you forget it by the time you get back to your vehicle.
It’s a strong attempt at its well-paved genre with tremendous action sequences, interesting enough characters, and time to breathe and let story carry action rather than action with zero story. The story and its mention would be irresponsible of me if I failed to bring up the out of nowhere, ridiculous, and unnecessary ending. For some odd reason THIS is the moment they decided to steer away from HEAT and dive into a different ending that is not only weaker but also still not original. And in a lot of ways the ending undermines the entire tone of the film being a serious, visceral, gritty thriller and turns it into a comedy style whodunit with little interest as to who actually dunit. It became almost silly spy movie rather than cop and robbers. While this ending definitely hurts the film, luckily all that comes before it is strong enough to for the most part balance its sudden uneven tone.
I feel I’ve done a whole lot of complaining and not enough praising here so despite the flaws, Den of Thieves is an entertaining thriller and based on the trailers, that’s a lot more than I could have asked for. But go in with low expectations, don’t get HEAT on the brain and expect anything comparable to such a classic. I think I’ll go watch HEAT now…
Rated R For: violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Runtime: 140 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, Evan Jones, O’Shea Jackson Jr., 50 Cent
Directed By: Christian Gudegast
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 3.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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