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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Den of Thieves 2018 * * * Stars

Den of ThievesDirector: Christian Gudegast
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Gerard Butler, 50 Cent, Pablo Schreiber

Loud, visceral shootouts in daylight traffic. Various informants. A suspect firing rounds through car windows like Robert De Niro. Equal storylines told from the perspectives of the cops and robbers. The main antagonist saying "told ya" right before he bites the bullet. The main protagonist facing the downside of a divorce. No I'm not talking about the film Heat. I'm talking about Den of Thieves, my latest review.

So OK, you could safely call "Thieves" Son of Heat or well, Heat Jr. It shamelessly resembles 1995's crime drama in many, subtle ways. I still dug it though. "Thieves" is effectively dense, plausibly bold, and tough-talking. Its setting is Los Angeles without the sunshine, the city of angels without the glamour, the back-alley stuff. You can't totally identify it as informal William Friedkin or full on Michael Mann (Heat's Chicagoan director). You can however, deemed it as Michael Mann "manifested".

Image result for Den of thieves movie scenesNow Den of Thieves is that rare January release that's worth recommending. It's also a decent enough reason for star Gerard Butler to keep his agent around for just a while longer. Butler's performance as Detective Nick O'Brien, is fantastically raw and profoundly reckless. His persona relentlessly tries to bring down an ex-military crew who are trying to steal money from LA's Federal Reserve Bank (a bank which has never had a successful attempt at a heist).

Watch for crafty, meticulous direction from Christian Gudegast (this is his directorial debut). Gudegast takes Den of Thieves seriously and so should you. His scenes are long-winded and fastidious but his film feels distanced from the realm of B movie, action schlock and required smash and grabbing (that's rather refreshing to me). Also, watch for a gotcha, twist ending in "Thieves" involving the character of Donnie Wilson (played by rapper Ice Cube's son, O'Shea Jackson Jr.).

All in all, "Thieves" at a lounged running time of 140 minutes, doesn't quite offer the emotional impact or epic tranquility that the nearly three hour Heat possesses (most flicks don't). However, it's a worthy companion and/or successor.

Image result for Den of thieves movie scenesBottom line: Den of Thieves thrives on "crime doesn't pay" urgency, stung violence without over-saturation, and some canvased, LA aerial shots. With its harmless attempt at a manifest homage, it "steals" a three star rating from me.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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