Den Of Thieves

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+Den Of Thieves

Directed By: Christian Gudegast

Screenplay By: Christian Gudegast

Story By: Christian Gudegast & Paul Scheuring

Produced By: Mark Canton, p.g.a Tucker Tooley, p.g.a.

Produced By: Gerard Butler Alan Siegel

Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Meadow Williams, Maurice Compte, Brian Van Holt, Evan Jones, Mo McRae, Kaiwi Lyman, Dawn Olivieri, Eric Braede, Jordan Bridges, Lewis Tan, Cooper Andrews, Nate Boyer, John Lewis.

I’m a huge fan of Heat (1995) – a crime thriller that graces my ‘Best of the Thrillers’ list and I’ll go there and state one of the best crime thrillers ever made.

In the same vein of Heat, Den of Thieves shows an armed robbery with machine guns and ski masks: these guys are ex-military and they handle their hard-wear like they’re still on the field of battle.

Led by special forces-trained and recently paroled, Ray Merriman (Pablo Schreiber), meet the Outlaws.

But when a robbery goes wrong and cops are killed, the Major Crimes Unit gets involved.  These guys are like a gang with tats included.  Add a badge and you’ve got the Regulators.

As the leader, ‘Big’ Nick O’Brien (Gerard Butler) says, they literally take no prisoners.

So, you get the tone of the film from the start with a familiar storyline where two crews face-off in a male-dominated pissing competition to see who can be the grande of men.

And I was dubious about rapper, Curtis James Jackson III, AKA 50 Cent, playing a major role as Enson Levoux; part of the Outlaws crew.  But hats off – 50 Cent can act as one big, scary robber/family man.

Talking of big scary dudes, it was cool to see some Pacific Islanders as part of the Outlaws crew; the effort made to authentically show Los Angeles’ southern-most neighbourhoods and one of many differences between Den of Thieves and its crime thriller predecessors.

The macho element pushed to its limit aside, there’s a point in the film where the script makes light of this brute male force with 50 Cent as Enson Levoux scaring the be-Jesus out of his daughter’s prom date by ushering him into a room full of his crew to confirm that yes, he’ll take care of his daughter, and yes, he promises to get her home by 11.30pm.

And the humanisation of these scary guys breaks the tension and leads to a more complicated and layered film with a high stakes play made by the Outlaws to rob the Federal Reserve Bank; a feat never successfully achieved and all the while under the surveillance of the Regulators leading to each crew trying to out-smart the other: showing brain more than brawn wins the game.

There’s clever building of tension with screenwriter and first-time director Christian Gudegast creating a film made of rapid gun fire and bullet casings spilling across the hood of cars, the soundtrack heaving with each impeding battle.

One notable scene with Big Nick and Ray Merriman shooting at a firing range – no words needed, just a show of skill and the double tap as ‘silver back’ Merriman shows his special ops training with a perfect configuration of shots through the target’s heart.

But a few holes in the story let down the believability.

Big Nick asks the question himself in the film, why did the Regulators go so bad?

And would police, even American, L.A. Major Crime Unit cops, open machine gun fire in a traffic jam?

And a few other bits (don’t want to give away too much of the story) that dent the cleverness of this multi-layered plot.

Overall, I was impressed with this film.  Even if Gerard Butler (and yes, I’m going to say it, Al Pacino did the same in Heat) overplays his role, just that little bit.

Yes, there’s echoes of Heat here, but there’s also a nod to other classics such as, The Usual Suspects.

Although a missed opportunity to make a unique classic itself, Den of Thieves evolves from a pissing contest into a layered absorbing entertainer ending with a knock of my knuckle-duster on the cinema cup holder in salute.

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London Has Fallen

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+London Has Fallen

Directed by: Babak Najafi

Screenplay by: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Chad St. John, Christian Gudegast

Story by: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Alan Moni Aboutboul, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo and Radha Mitchell.

A sequel to the 2013 film, Olympus Has Fallen, London Has fallen is an action thriller that was better and bloodier than expected.

Obligated to attend the state funeral of the British Prime Minister, the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart), along with the majority of the world’s leaders, come under attack by the Pakistani terrorist and arms dealer, Aamir Barkawi (Alan Moni Aboutboul).

Gerard Butler playing the secret service agent, Mike Banning, isn’t my favourite action man.  And the chemistry between Mike and his wife Leah (Aussie actress, Radha Mitchell) was strained if not painful to watch.  But there were glimmers of a personality under all that strutting – ‘I don’t know about you but I’m thirsty as fuck,’ being one of the very few human moments.  He’s a man made of, ‘Bourbon and bad decisions’.  But yeah, some of the dialogue was pretty bad.

This is a big budget film with buildings blown up, the Chelsea Bridge disintegrating and the top of Westminster Abby toppling to the streets of London.  If it wasn’t for the seeming required cheese that these ‘American President versus Terrorist’ movies always seem to require, this would have been a very good film.

I like my thrillers and there was plenty of action here – car chases and machine guns popping like fireworks.  There were moments reminiscent of an Army Action kill ‘em all PlayStation game.  Good stuff!

Having the Brits on board only helped balance the typical cheese of the American style, one-sided ideal of the live and die mantra for the American Dream.  Even with Morgan Freeman’s baritone, some of the dialogue was hard to swallow.

The screening of the movie is timely with the recent terrorist attacks on Brussels.  A very sad day.  And some politics are discussed here.  The required need to continue the fight against terror rather than do nothing.  To engage the world.  The fact America has been under attack for centuries and that they will remain.  It is frightening, this terror business, this blowing up of innocent people.  And I don’t want to get into politics here.  But there are attacks happening and I guess the movie shows a perspective.  Anyway.

A lot of cheese, but some good action here with a big budget to make the film look impressive on the screen.