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Den of Thieves (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 140 minutes

Not for children.

I don’t know where writer/director Christian Gudegast gets his information. He was a screenwriter for Olympus Has Fallen (2013), in which his star in this movie, Gerard Butler, also starred. But, while this is an interesting, tense bank robbery heist thriller, it is also a libel on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

“Big” Nick O’Brien (Butler) is an arrogant, cocky, foulmouthed leader of a squad in the Sheriff’s Department called the Regulators, defined as “an elite major crimes squad.” I don’t think a group of policemen as lawless as these would last long in any Police Department. They are strictly a fiction of Gudegast’s imagination and there really doesn’t seem to be any reason for him to create them as being so barbaric.

What’s sad about this is that after about the first hour when the bad guys, led by Ray Merriman (Pablo Schreiber), start to execute their devious plan the film is captivating, even though the dénouement contains absurdly ridiculous violence that would never happen on a Los Angeles street, or any street in America.

As a result, the film is full of plot holes aplenty. For instance, Gudegast throws in a B story (that’s being generous; it barely qualifies as a Z story) about O’Brien’s relationship with his wife and daughters. It has absolutely no bearing on the story and, in fact, Gudegast brings it up, shows some scenes, and then lets it die, never to be mentioned again. If I were his editor I would cut the entire situation and shorten the film by at least 20 minutes.

Worse, even though the heist is interesting and presented in a manner that captures the viewer’s attention, it is totally incomprehensible. What are they doing? Why? What happened? How did it work? In the end, you don’t find out answers to these questions. Maybe Gudegast doesn’t know either. He had what he thought was a good idea, couldn’t figure out exactly how what they do could be accomplished, but put it on the screen anyway.

As you can tell, this is another film that needs some serious editing. When we exited the screening I asked my assistant several questions about what was going on and why and she didn’t have a clue either. Even so, it’s a fun film to watch and holds your interest throughout.