‘Blu-ray or Bust’
DEN OF THIEVES (2018, R, 140 minutes, ATMOSPHERE/STX ENTERTAINMENT)
There comes a certain point in DEN OF THIEVES when you realize that, despite writer/director Christian Gudegast’s efforts to keep the film grounded in reality, you should probably just go with it. Forget your preconceived notions of how outrageous the action onscreen is, eat your freakin’ popcorn, and just forget about reality for a while.
After all, that is what the movies are all about. Right? Getting away for a few hours? Leaving behind your responsibilities, your bills, your job, rational thought—you get the picture. Having previously worked with Gudegast on 2016’s LONDON HAS FALLEN (and oh, Lordy, do I wish I could forget that infected monkey’s mucus membrane of a film…), Gerard Butler stars as bad cop “Big Nick”. Nick is a bully, a narcissistic masochist with a badge, in charge of solving big crimes for the LAPD. On the other side of the law (which is a rather fuzzy membrane in and of itself as it is portrayed here) is Pablo Schreiber (he plays the awesome Mad Sweeney in “American Gods”) as retired Marine Ray Merriman. If anyone in the film could be set up as the typical sympathetic character, the one you should probably root for, it would have been him.
For about three minutes.
The “fun” thing about THIEVES is that the film is filled with people you probably shouldn’t like, unless your criteria for liking someone involves who is the shadiest. At its core, the tale revolves around two gangs going to war: Big Nick’s policing unit, dubbed “Regulators”, and Merriman’s bank robbing crew, dubbed…okay, let’s just call them the “Other Bad Guys”. So it is really Bad Guys Vs. Other Bad Guys, or maybe Bad Guys Ending Badly. Anyway, Merriman wants to pull off a big heist at the Federal Reserve in LA, and Big Nick wants to stop him (because even though he is a bad guy, he still has to earn a paycheck, and he does that by fuzzying up the law). Of course there will be surprises along the way, mixed in amongst certain predictable moments, but one thing that works excellently for the film is the tone. Again, no one here is “good”; but is anyone ever really all good? Or, for that matter, all bad? By not giving the viewer any obvious means of differentiating whom is more righteous in their actions, Gudegast sets you up emotionally—which is surprising for an action/thriller.
Along for the ride is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Merriman’s right-hand man, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as their driver (even if he only drives once in the entire film, but, hey, IT’S ENTERTAINMENT). These are the performances to watch; while there is surprisingly no bad acting in the film, our main characters actually get more to do than strike poses and shoot machine guns sideways. Particularly surprising is Jackson, whose range here as both crook and family man is refreshing. No one turns in a wooden performance, although Butler looks to be enjoying himself a tad too much as he chews the scenery.
The Blu-ray release has only three documentaries included, all under four minutes, and only one that really gives you anything behind the scenes. The other two play like long previews, which is a shame, as the information included on the doc concerning the traffic jam shootout at the end of the film is great—even if it is run past you like it was being shot by that fast-talking dude from the Micro Machines commercials.
In case anyone was wondering, Yes!, Gudegast is hard at work writing the sequel. Is a sequel necessary? Nope. Will I watch it anyways? Yep. ‘Cause every now and again, it’s good to forget about all those pressing matters in your life—like spouses, kids, physics, Los Angeles noise pollution—and just enjoy watching bad people shooting three hundred thousand bullets at each other.
Film Grade: B
Special Features: D+
Blu-ray Necessary: Abso-freakin’-lutely
-- T.S. Kummelman