Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber star in “Den of Thieves”


By Liz Lopez

Rating: B-/C+

There are only so many ways to tell a story about robbers pulling off a heist without it going into territory where it is compared to other great heist films from the past. Many times an audience will then write it off as just another “heist” film before it is viewed. Director Christian Gudegast (screenwriter of “London Has Fallen”) makes his directorial debut with “Den of Thieves” from a screenplay he wrote along with Paul Scheuring. Although I did enter the theater with the anticipation of it being totally predictable, I can say I was pleasantly surprised that it provides entertainment with both the story and performances from the lead and supporting actors.

Gerard Butler serves as a producer and stars as the tough lead cop Nick Flanagan. He is very credible as a leader of a small unit within the sheriff’s department that does not believe in using hand cuffs very much or “following the rules” to get the information he seeks. I am amused that throughout the screening, every time I saw a close shot of Butler’s face or profile as he is scowling, I can still see him as King Leonidas in the 2006 film, “300” even though he is wearing a leather jacket. The other impressive performance is from Pablo Schreiber, who stars as Merrimen, the leader of the crew of robbers who has satisfactorily robbed several banking institutions with plans for the next big thing. Schreiber succeeds in carrying out this sharpshooting role as an ex- soldier (now ex-con), based on his experiences with prior roles in “13 Hours” as Kris “Tanto” Paronto and “Fort Bliss” as Staff Sergeant Donovan, as well as multiple episodes as Mendez in “Orange is the New Black.”

O’Shea Jackson Jr. stars in the role of Donnie, a bartender who is an excellent, record setting high speed driver. This skill appeals to Merrimen as he works on the upcoming heist. Jackson’s work in this crime/action drama shows his additional range of talent after the debut in the biopic “Straight Outta Compton” (2015) where he portrayed his father. He has three more films in the works and is one actor to follow.

The script centers on both the law enforcement team and the crew of robbers, both as macho as they come with what appears to be a game of who is going to outwit who. There is a great scene where Flanagan shows off with no fear and lots of bravado in a restaurant where Merrimen and his crew are dining with family, including Donnie and Levi Enson (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), among others. The story goes back and forth and is one to watch without me revealing which crew will take the prize.

There is a part of this script that I do not find necessary at all. It is a waste of time to show the audience that Flanagan’s marriage to his wife, Debbie (Dawn Olivieri) has failed. Although it may try to show that Flanagan has a sensitive side, especially with their two young daughters, who cares? It really serves no purpose for this crime drama.

The film also has Evan Jones, Cooper Andrews, Lewis Tan, Maurice Compte, Mo McRae and many others among the large cast. Even if you question watching the film in the theater, it is worth a good matinee viewing, or certainly during the local theater’s discount day.

The film has a 2-hour-and-20-minute running time and has an “R” MPAA rating. It opens Jan 19, 2018.

Source: STX Films

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