To say that Den of Thieves is an extended tribute by Christian Gudegast to Michael Mann’s Heat would be an understatement.Except for the heist elements that reminded me of Logan Lucky and the bits of humor, its almost an uncredited remake of the Mann classic.From sweeping shots of night time LA to armed robbers to gunfights to the personal lives of the cops and thieves to the climactic on-foot-chase, the film has Heat written all over it, but of course Gerard Butler is no Pacino and Pablo Schrieber is no De Niro.That’s not taking anything away from these talented actors either.Butler and Schrieber bring a menacing physicality to their roles too, which works well with the director’s vision of present day crime and criminals in LA, that this movie is.
Gudegast who has graduated from writer to director with Den of Thieves has subtly tried to make a political statement too i felt, with the stress on subtly.The criminals are military veterans and Gerard Butler’s cop character at one point looks a picture of Schrieber’s Merrimen from his days in the Marine Corps and asks rhetorically, What happened to you? It’s an obvious reference to the PTSD crisis that the American war machine has spawned on the homefront and the writer here has used it in the background to justify the acts of the men on the wrong side of the law here, to an extent.Its also one reason why the cops treat them a different animal from the other criminals in the bank robbery capital of the world, to quote the movie itself.Michael Mann’s bank robber in contrast was a suave professional who stuck to his code and earned his antagonist’s respect for just that.
The criminals here too are not without honor and would choose to go down fighting rather than pay for their crimes behind bars.They show restraint when provoked, especially in the company of women and family.They lookout for eachother and even turn up in a gang at one instance just to intimidate the boy who’s taking one of their pal’s daughter out.In a casting coup of sorts, you get to see 50-Cent play a doting father and a hard as nails robber and he manages to smile on screen more than once.The cops on the other hand seen are cheating, getting divorced and, shopping for cheap jackets which is less of an intended testimony of their honesty and more of a justification for the expensive “looking” wardrobe they possess in the movie, i felt. In fact maybe its a bit of both.
This film might not connect with the audience on levels like Heat did or the characters might not stay with them for long but still makes for a decent action thriller to watch on a lazy weekend thanks to Butler and Schrieber.