Latest posts by Oliver Ledingham-Smith (see all)
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Sometimes trailers can be misleading. And I don’t mean they can be misleading in the way the marketing campaign for both Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 were misleading. I mean in the sense that the trailer for Downsizing made that film look good, and it wasn’t. While the trailer for Den of Thieves made it look okay, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the 140 runtime (and not just because there was a plot). The plot in question involved two groups of people – one side who were on the law, the other who weren’t. It sounds basic on the face of it, and yet writer-director Christian Gudegast blurred the line, so that there were times when the ‘good guys’ didn’t seem all that good, and the ‘bad guys’ weren’t necessarily all that bad – despite the fact that they were plotting to pull off a heist on the Federal Reserve Bank. The ‘good guys’, led by Nick ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien (Gerard Butler) were attempting to stop the outlaws before they could get the chance of going ahead with their heist, yet it seemed that Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), Donnie Wilson (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and their team are always one step ahead of them, even when Donnie gets taken in for interrogation and is subjected to bit of roughhousing.
One of the main things about Den of Thieves that made the movie so alluring was that there was an almost microscopic portrayal of the main characters, without actually revealing too much too soon. There were points during the film when you wanted to empathise with Nick, but then the roles would be switched, and you saw Nick as a douchebag, someone who threw around his weight, and was overly boisterous, exuding his masculinity in an attempt to make himself feel better about the rubbish situation that was all of his own making. Nor did he make it any better, either. So even though it was posited that Nick was meant to be on the right side of the law, that didn’t necessarily make him a good person. Yet you could also say that Merrimen and co. weren’t good people, but they never explicitly wanted to kill anyone; they were all about just stealing money and making themselves rich. At the beginning of the film when shots are fired, Merrimen does reprimand his men afterwards. While this may be a not-too-subtle way to show the two sides that will be at play throughout Den of Thieves, it is no less effective because of that. And despite all of this and the unlawful things that Merrimen and Donnie were doing, there was a part of you that hoped they would succeed, too.
I mentioned how Den of Thieves has a long runtime, and the reason being is down to the fact that the heist the thieves are attempting to pull off is a complex one, because it has never been attempted before. If you watch this and wonder what their plan is, or how they hope to succeed when you already know that they have a small window of opportunity to be in one place, but seem to be cutting it fine when they’re in another location entirely, then have no fear, as Gudegast knows what he’s doing; you’re in safe hands, and your patience will be rewarded. Another reason as to why it’s so lengthy is because, unlike some other heist films, Den of Thieves also explores the aftermath of the heist in a fair amount of detail, and what happens when things reach a boiling point. You have spent so long up to this point watching a game of cat and mouse – without really knowing who is who – that when the climax hits, it is brutally shocking and filled with adrenaline-pumping, gut-bursting action. This is a bold move, but one which is necessary, as it elevates the tension and allows everything to spill forth as the guns finally start blazing. Nor is the ending one that you’re likely to spot coming, even if you’ve seen a bunch of heist-centric films in your life.
The moral quandary that is at play and also at stake in Den of Thieves is perhaps what makes this film so much better than it arguably has any right to be. I went into it with relatively low expectations (I enjoy Butler, but it’s not as if he’s a massive box office draw) and found myself more than pleasantly surprised by the time I walked out again. Frankly, it wasn’t just the killer writing that was involved, nor the tightly woven plot that meant that things happened at a fast pace without it coming off as too quick or too slow so that you weren’t confused or annoyed that anything had been missed. Rather, it was the fact that none of the characters weren’t painted black and white as indicated by their roles in the society of the movie. Much like how in Breaking Bad there are numerous different shades of grey area, the same can also be side for Den of Thieves, but on a far less complex scale. It meant that you were constantly pulled hither and thither. In essence, you’re treated to characters who are more than just two-dimensional caricatures meant to fit the roles that have been dumped upon them. Den of Thieves told a complete, morally complex story, with fleshed out characters, and a good storyline. If you like meaty movies, this one’s for you. But how they’re going to ‘pull off’ the sequel is anyone’s guess.
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