Gerard Butler and 50 Cent starring in a January heist film, with the writer of London Has Fallen, Christian Gudegast, making his directorial debut, does not sound like a very good mix. But here we are with Den of Thieves.

Den of Thieves is by no means a ground-breaking action caper; it tells a formulaic cops and robbers story – Butler plays Big Nick, the hard-edged leader of the Major Crimes unit, who is chasing after a slick group of thieves, led by tough-guy Ray (Pablo Schreiber) – that is awfully conventional and generic in its approach – you can predict most of the coming beats. But, despite its seemingly simplistic nature, it’s a film that is executed with enough competent direction to make for a disposable, enjoyable time that will certainly keep you pretty satisfied for its runtime.

There is a lot to like about this film. For starters, the action is helmed and shot brilliantly; the sequences really pop with real intensity and energy – when the bullets fly, they fly thick and they fly fast. It’s quick paced and very entertaining to watch. The performances are also strong – for the most part. They start off a little dry to begin with but, once the film picks up, so does the acting; Butler gives a great turn here as the muscle-bound Big Nick, a cop that sits out with the law and has a brash, whatever it takes to get the job attitude that makes. He fits the role and brings enough wit to keep it amusing to watch. Schreiber and Cent are also good, the latter certainly doesn’t have a big presence though and the marketing is perhaps misleading in selling him as a pivotal role but he does impress in what little screen-time he has. However, it’s O’Shea Jackson Jr that is the highlight here; the young actor gives a performance that is arguably better than a film of this nature deserves and he grounds it – the robbers in this cops and robbers tale, certainly - with that much-needed humanity and charm that would otherwise feel lacking.
It’s just a shame the characters are paper thin and we don’t care for them in the slightest. They’re about as predictable as they come, which makes them bland and uninteresting. The writing in Den of Thieves is not good at all. Not only does the screenplay lack any strong characterisation but its riddled with plot holes and contrivances too, not to mention some mawkish and forced dialogue. It’s a messy script, overstuffed with underwhelming characters and too many subplots and it just feels too sprawling and frenetic for its own good. The 140-minute runtime is unnecessary and the film drags a lot; it could have easily been trimmed by a half hour and the tighter, more thrilling film lost within the mess would have emerged as a far more satisfying watch – perhaps actually great.

Den of Thieves is far from a bad film. It’s certainly a lot more entertaining than I expected it to be given its credentials on paper, if still quite a tepid affair though. The film is, in essence, a Heat rip-off and your time would be far better spent watching that – or any other heist film that pits cops against robbers, really – but it is still enjoyable enough to sit through. The film is plodding when its too focused on its characters and its slow-burn narrative but given that it's executed with enough flashy action, charm and style, it’s certainly entertaining and isn’t robbing you blind.

Whilst it's deeply flawed, Den of Thieves is a slick enough heist film that, despite feeling formulaic in its approach, is entertaining enough to not feel like its robbing you blind.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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