Review: Den of Thieves
By Tobias Soar
Sometimes, you want a film to either be brilliant or terrible to the point where it’s comedic. Den of Thieves is, quite simply, god-awful – and not in the fun way. With a runtime of two hours and 30 minutes, about halfway through the film you just want to get up and leave because going for a piss and looking at the dirty wall of the cinema bathroom might be more entertaining that the terribly written cops-and-robbers story presented in the “it’s a gritty film” grey/blue/brown filter slapped on top the shoddy camerawork that manages to make car chases, gunfights, and a hostage situation boring.
Of course, looking at the works of Christian Gudegast, director and screenwriter of this film, it all makes sense: he’s also responsible for London Has Fallen and A Man Apart — may I add that they have 25 per cent and 11 per cent ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively.
The editing is also bizarre. There are conversations that, while they go nowhere because of the writing, are cut short by the editor, leading to a feeling of an obvious lack of continuity between shots.
Lastly, on the technical side of things, the soundtrack is only present for 20 per cent of the film. The rest has no soundtrack, making things awkward. It sounds like a knock-off Vangelis. When the credits rolled and I saw that Cliff Martinez had scored this film I was very confused — his soundtracks are usually fantastically atmospheric.
Gerard Butler, 50 Cent, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Pablo Schreiber are all entertaining performers, when seen elsewhere. Let me walk you through each of them, in this film.
Gerard Butler is hit-or-miss when it comes to his performances. In Den of Thieves, it’s a huge miss. He’s a tough american sheriff in LA who is always chewing something or smoking, making it disgusting to watch him speak while he gargles a half-eaten donut. His character also has a whole side-plot about his wife leaving him because he’s been fucking hookers. A very reasonable reaction, yes, but a completely irrelevant part of the story that only serves to show him to be a ‘macho alpha male’ who goes to the strip club before heading to the shooting range and then hitting the bar – yes, all that happens in the space of 15 minutes.
50 Cent is an atrocious actor and mumbles all his lines. I swear I couldn’t understand a single word of what he said. To his credit, however, he brings the best scene in the whole film which genuinely had me in tears. He intimidates his daughter’s prom date by taking him to his garage which is filled with 20 hardened criminals who just stare the poor lad down before bursting into laughter upon the scared youngster’s leave. Fiddy, stick to your Bitcoin success and stay off the silver screen
O’Shea Jackson Jr., playing Ice Cube’s son, is charismatic and genuine but the pathetic writing brings him down. To give you an idea of how bad it is, there are five conversations where two characters literally say “Fuck you”, “No, fuck you”, “Fuck you, you pussy motherfucker”. The same happens to Pablo Schreiber who is absolutely fantastic in American Gods but boring, bland and unlikeable in this role.
As for the plot, it’s a heist. It’s cops and robbers and it drags on for way too long with a lot of filler. The stakes are irrelevant and the pacing is flat and slow, like a snail that’s been run over by a car but seems to still be dragging itself along despite being practically soulless. And, minor spoiler, there’s an attempt at a M. Night Shyamalan-type twist that falls completely flat by the time it happens because you just don’t give a shit about it anymore.
And, strangely enough, UFC fighters Max Holloway and Manchester-born Michael Bisping make appearances that amount to a total combined screentime of 40 seconds. They were hyped up by the marketing because of contractual obligations, I suppose. Unsurprisingly, they can’t act to save their lives.
Honestly, there is no reason for anyone to watch this film. I’ll probably forget about it in a week or two, which is worse than me remembering it for being overly terrible. I feel as if my review is incoherent but I’m sure it makes more sense than Den of Thieves does.