Den of Thieves starts off with an analogy about how every 48 minutes, a bank is robbed somewhere in the world, and the mother of all bank robberies is in Los Angeles. To prove it, one of the LAPD trucks stops at a late night donut shop (maybe a police stereotype turned into that because some donut shops stay open 24/7) and out of nowhere a fleet of gun smokers with gas masks come up to try to steal the truck and get away clean. It leads to a shootout which leads to four officers dead, six at the hospital, and only one of the masked gunned down and the truck stolen. Brought into the investigation is Big Nick, played by Gerard Butler, who's trying to maintain his relationship with his wife and kids while getting the evidence to convict whoever orchestrated the robbery no matter how he has to do so. The one behind it is a man named Merrimen, probably referencing Robin Hood, and he's played by Pablo Schreiber. Fresh out of jail, he has his eyes set on the only bank in LA that's never successfully been robbed. There have been 53 attempts, but no one's gotten past the first set of doors. There's almost a trillion dollars in that bank, with every serial number accounted for and monitored, and whenever money gets replaced, about 30 million every hour is immediately shredded. He and his gang are going after it, with Nick hot on them, and maybe both sides are well aware of the other's knowledge.
I generally like Gerard Butler. How to Train your Dragon and Olympus has Fallen were tremendous thrillers made better because of him. I think I'm starting to grow tired of him, though, especially when he ends up fighting with his wife and kids and a divorce attorney is in his future and I rooted against him. The moment Big Nick ends up on duty I wanted someone to tell him he's not the highest authority. His tactics in finding criminals are understandable but when you torture a character where we've just been introduced to him and don't quite know anything about him yet, the choking and tormenting doesn't seem necessary. Yes, he was part of a shootout but we didn't see his face so it's not as effective. After watching Den of Thieves, I thought about what I would do if I had big muscles and I were assigned to be an interrogator. It even made me desire a chance to do so, after Butler's character does everything I do not endorse right in my face.
Something I often like in movies is when a character feels a personal connection to the plot. I mean, that's something very simple to do, right? Olympus has Fallen had that. Mike Banning, played by Butler, was removed from the president's security after being unable to save his wife in a terrible car accident. But Butler's character has no correlation with this investigation other than he simply decided to take it.
Big Nick's not the only one that seems just there to be there. The thieves have no given reason, as far as I know, other than pride, robbing the only LA bank that's never been robbed before. After Merrimen got out of jail, couldn't he have, I don't know, looked for a job? In Ant-Man, Scott Lang's character had a fresh release and couldn't hold a job due to his reputation after breaking the law to expose a corrupt business. That sounds like a mouthful but it gave him a reason to go back into the stealing game. There's nothing of the sort here, not even a peep, and I'm fine with a movie trying something new once in a while but in this case, it comes out more like the filmmakers were too lazy to think of anything rather than have a criminal that represents the greed of mankind. We see one character get a minimum wage job + 2 dollars per delivery, halving the tip with the boss. But that never goes anywhere. It's just some generic criminals who want to rob a bank and that's it. A badly bearded cop who looks like he asks for the alcohol section at convenience stores versus some, ahem, bad guys where we don't know their names? Okay, where's my book?
I would say the best thing about this film is when the actual heist goes underway, it is tense. The plan is a little bit fun to watch and prior to that, there's a very clever shooting range scene with some surprising between-the-lines filming. The rest of the movie took my taste completely out of heist movies for a little while, especially the awful, overly done and unremarkable conclusion. I've heard a lot of people compare this movie to Michael Mann's 1995 Heat. I've never seen it, but I have seen the big main bank robbery and final shootout. It was pretty awesome. It's like the only original thing in the film is the heist plan. The rest is simply blueprint on what characters are supposed to be in the film, without any story or logic that's supposed to come after.
Den of Thieves manages to be as predictable as an alarm clock, as unoriginal as a feather and shaving cream, and there's nothing beneath the surface trying to send a message other than a paycheck attempt. I'm surprised I'm saying this, but the end result of Den of Thieves made it worse than any other movie I saw in 2017, including Fifty Shades Darker. Have I lost it?