Den of Thieves (***) is a long slog with a decent payoff

den-of-thieves-movie-trailer-2018

Den of Thieves – 2018

Director  Christian Gudegast
Screenplay Christian Gudegast, Paul Scheuring
Starring  Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson

Den of Thieves starts out in one of the most violent shootouts witnessed in a movie of its kind. Many armor-piercing bullets fly to and fro with a large casualty count. How in the world can one be expected to top such a high bullet to body ratio? How about another 1.5 hours of slow burn then an inexplicably senseless shootout in the last half hour?

The performances are uneven. Butler is still looking for that one role that would establish the sheer charisma he exhibits with the most banal interview. Once more, we see him playing the ultimate alpha male, flexing his way through most scenes, looking like he’s hearing Desperado in the soundtrack while contemplating the universe in others.

That so much of the screen time is dedicated to showing him searching for a third chord is a shame, especially when they have Pablo Schreiber  and Oshea Jackson, Jr. as his counterbalance. Schreiber, who is excellent in 13 Hours, American Gods and Orange is the New Black, is immensely expressive with a modicum of words. He’s playing a thankless role here, as the guy who “ain’t cuffin’ up” which means, of course, he’s going to be just fine when all the bullets have left the chamber.

Jackson, the son of Ice Cube, has established a range that has eluded his father in a mere two films. His character is on the meek side for most of his scenes. That he doesn’t show that he even has a hand is crucial to the enjoyment of the somewhat predictable mystery as it unravels.

As good as the heist is, we have several unnecessary plot threads that precede it in the first two acts. Butler’s O’Brien is a droll, embarrassing estimation of an anti-hero trope. Why do we need to know the guy leading the brigade of the law is a complete asshole? It’s one thing to provide a little shading. It’s something completely different to make the viewer hope the bad guy loses so his wife kids can catch a break.

The film drags its manliness through the slow parts. There’s a little too much testosterone for anyone but people who enjoy beer commercials to enjoy. The last insane battle feels like it comes from the A-Team television show for their ability to hit everything in the shooting range, but miss everything in battle.

The end result with the viewer depends on if you can accept the twists as entertaining enough to get through the slower parts of the film. It’s not Sicario in any capacity. So I am not sure I look forward to a second film, since it feels like they played their best card already.

(*** out of *****)

 

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