Den of Thieves is apparently a labour-of-love that was in development for 14 years, yet the finished product is just as rife with clichés and full of violently blokey posturing as any other dumb cop/crime action epic.
Gerard Butler is the star here, and he’s a fair arse-kicker but there isn’t much to the character of his Detective ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien that’s especially interesting or appealing. In fact, he’s mostly a right old bastard.
Subtitles reveal that LA has the most bank robberies of any city in the world, and then we’re right into the business of a bunch of masked, tech-savvy baddies holding up an armoured vehicle full of cash before sunrise. Soon there are bullets flying and bloodied extras all over the street. Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) is their sour leader, and there’s lots of scowling and swearing from his offsiders, including the hotheaded Bosco (Evan Jones) and Levi, who’s played by a surly Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, whose film career never really took off.
Big Nick turns up to investigate and ticks off all the movie detective boxes: he’s hairy, hungover, scoffs doughnuts, disrespects authority, is dedicated to his job to the point of criminality and hangs out with hookers and strippers, which pushes his wife Debbie (Dawn Olivieri) to want a divorce and slap him around a lot.
Nick and his pals basically kidnap a suspect, Donnie (O’Shea Jackson from Straight Outta Compton) and force him to be an informant by way of threats, the N-Word and a little light strangulation. He reveals that a huge (and hugely unlikely) robbery is being planned by Merriman’s lads and sets into motion a plot that feels a little like a very dodgy imitation of Heat, complete with bad guys who aren’t so bad, good guys who are decidedly less than virtuous, and a big build-up to a heist and shoot-‘em-up that play like dreary retreads of Michael Mann’s 1995 classic. Only without the grandeur.
There are a few tricks and tropes that aren’t quite what you’re expecting into the final act here, but in order to get to them you need to trudge through oodles of potty-mouthed he-man nonsense and characters who, in real life, you’d cross the street to avoid.
Rated MA. Den of Thieves is in cinemas now.