Monday, January 22, 2018

Den of Thieves

I didn't plan on this being my only theatrical film for the day - I was going to catch the 70mm Phantom Thread at the Coolidge at 4pm - but I wound up waiting for a train for fifteen minutes in Davis, and when it reached Park, it was pretty clear that I wasn't going to make it to Brookline on time. So, since Den was going to be my evening show, I got off the train there, killed some time replacing shoes that were falling apart, and went to the Boston Common theater. Mildly surprised that there was a non-tiny audience, because (stereotype alert!) I would have figured that most of the people who wanted to see this would be home or at the bar watching the Patriots game. I mean, aside from just looking like a football-fan movie, there's actually dialogue where folks in the robbery crew playing high-school football together is treated like a bond just as strong as being in the Marines together.

Anyway, it gave me a little more time to watch other things when I got home, including starting my "finish the series" binge with Sha po lang 3: Paradox and pulling the last episode of The Blacklist off the DVR - where, coincidentally, Red got involved in a plan to rob the Denver mint of tens of millions of dollars of currency meant to be destroyed. Roughly a third of the length of the film, and admittedly starting from a position of familiarity, now does the TV version of this story have James Spader and Nathan Lane while the big screen settles for Gerard Butler and Pablo Schreiber?

Den of Thieves

* * (out of four)
Seen on 20 January 2018 in AMC Boston Common #18 (first-run, DCP)

140 minutes long, this thing is, and that doesn't even include the line from the trailer about the crew being addicted to heists. What the heck is up with that? Sure, sometimes a moment that can seem too on-the-nose in the film can be great for selling it, but other times it can seem like a clear sign that the movie won't just get to the point, and that's the case here. Den of Thieves is a thriller that spends a lot of time screwing around but not much actually thrilling.

It starts off promising enough, with a well-organized crew robbing an armored car with overwhelming force when it stops at a donut shop, at least until one of the guards twitches wrong and a shootout begins. "Big Nick" O'Brien (Gerard Butler) of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's Major Crimes Squad catches the case, finding it odd that a team as well-organized as this one seemed to be wouldn't know the van they stole was empty. Still, he recognizes the style as that of Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), an ex-Marine whose recent time in prison corresponded to a drop in the number elaborate robberies like this. Surveillance footage leads them to Donnie (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), a bartender with a couple of auto-related convictions whose fear of a third strike should get him to inform and allow Nick's crew to catch Merrimen's in the act. But Donnie says they keep him out of the loop until game day, which means they don't know Merrimen's target is the insanely-secure Federal Reserve building.

There are a bunch of other characters floating around - a pretty generic bunch, all sowle and shaggy and tattooed in the same way - but those three are the only ones of any consequence, and ideally they'd be more than enough. Gerard Butler is, admittedly, pretty good as a dirtbag cop, unpretentiously smart and casual in his entitlement. Nick's the guy you're kind of rooting for by default, and Butler makes sure that he doesn't seem particularly righteous but also never particularly burdened by guilt, he snaps crude lines off to show he's quick-witted but not exactly deep. O'Shea Jackson Junior looks like he could be a bigger star than his dad, showing an easy charm and able to play Donnie as realizing he's in over his head but still pushing through on confidence. It's not particularly Pablo Schreiber's fault that his third leg of this troika, Merrimen, is pretty much a non-entity - the script by director Christopher Gudegast and Paul Scheuring gives him even less than his co-stars - but he really doesn't project any sort of consistent personality at all. The movie needs a master thief, but Merrimen never seems compulsive or greedy or bored and only excited by planning a tricky operation.

Full review at EFC

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