Film Review: Den of Thieves (dir by Christian Gudegast)


Den of Thieves is quite simply one of the most exhausting films that I’ve ever sat through.

It’s not just that the film itself is overly long, though that’s definitely an issue.  (Den of Thieves last 2 hours and 20 minutes.  For the sake of comparison, that’s 17 minutes longer than last year’s best picture winner, The Shape of Water.)  Instead, the real problem is that there’s really not a single unexpected moment to be found in Den of Thieves.  Every cliché imaginable shows up in Den of Thieves and, after a while, the film’s predictability becomes a bit much to take.

It’s a bank heist film.  We know that because it opens with a strangely portentous title card that informs us that more banks are robbed in Los Angeles than anywhere else in the country.  This is one of those heist films where a self-destructive police detective goes head-to-head with a ruthless yet sympathetic criminal mastermind.  If you’re thinking that this sounds a lot like Heat, you’re right.  In fact, imagine if they remade Heat without any of the stuff that made Heat more than just another crime film and you have a pretty good idea what you’re going to get with Den of Thieves.

The detective is named Big Nick O’Brien (Gerard Butler) and we know he’s a badass because he’s got a lot of tattoos and a beard and when he’s not busting criminals, he’s either getting drunk or getting served with divorce papers.  Nick’s an asshole but that’s okay because Nick … NICK GETS RESULTS, GODDAMMIT!  Nick has a crew that’s devoted to him.  Of course, a lot of them will be dead by the end of the movie.  That’s just the way things go when you’re living in a clichéd crime film.

Big Nick wants to take down Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), who is a former marine turned bank robber.  We know that Merrimen is a badass because he’s got a beard and he’s got even more tattoos than Nick!  In fact, his entire crew is covered with tattoos!  You have to wonder how smart these criminals are, all getting body art that will make it very easy for the police to identify them.  But they’re a good crew.  In fact … THEY’RE THE BEST!  THEY GET RESULTS!  And only Nick can take them down because … ONLY THE MOTHERFUCKING BEST CAN TAKE DOWN THE MOTHERFUCKING BEST, GODDAMMIT!

Sorry, am I yelling a lot?  This is one of those films where everyone yells a lot.  Basically, this entire movie is drenched in testosterone.  This is one of those films where no one gets interrogated with getting knocked around beforehand and where every meeting is some sort of confrontation.  When the end credits rolled, I was shocked to learn that some of these people actually had names.  Just from listening to the dialogue, I assumed everyone in the film was named “Motherfucker.”

And again, it just all gets exhausting after a while.  Maybe if Den of Thieves had been a 90 minute action flick or had featured any of the self-aware humor of Baby Driver, it would have been entertainingly dumb.  But 140 minutes is a long time to spend with a bunch of thinly drawn stereotypes.

Now, there are two positive things that can be said about Den of Thieves.

First off, one of the thieves is played by O’Shea Jackson, Jr. and he’s got enough screen presence that he can overcome some clunky scenes.  (A scene where he’s interrogated by the police literally seems to go on forever.)

Secondly, the film itself looks great.  The film’s opening scenes do a good job of capturing Los Angeles’s unique mix of grit and glitz.  The opening shootout is pretty well-done and briefly suggests some promise on which the film ultimately doesn’t deliver.

Anyway, Den of Thieves came out this January and despite middling reviews, it did well enough at the box office to earn itself a sequel.  So, in 2020, look forward to more scenes of Gerard Butler … GETTING RESULTS!

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #17: 13 Hours (dir by Michael Bay)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

13_hours_poster

I recorded 13 Hours off of Epix on October 14th.

Before I say anything else about 13 Hours, I would like to be point out something that I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the other reviews of this film.  13 Hours is not just a recreation of the September 11th, 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.  (This attack led to death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyone Woods, Sean Smith, and Glenn Doherty, all of whom are portrayed in the film.)  13 Hours is also a very unexpected The Office reunion.  On The Office, John Krasinski played Jim Halpert while David Denman played Roy Anderson, the ex-fiance of Jim’s wife, Pam.  In 13 Hours, they both play members of the American security detail who spend 13 terrifying hours trying to protect the compound from a violent and heavily armed mob.

They’re both surprisingly well-cast.  As someone who absolutely loved The Office, I had my doubts as to whether or not I’d be able to believe John Krasinski — he of the iconic smirk and the adorable eye roll — as a battle-hardened, former Navy SEAL.  Jim Halpert with a gun!?  I wondered.  But Krasinski brings an unexpected gravity to his role, as does David Denman.  For that matter, the entire cast — and this is truly an ensemble film, even if it is dominated by Krasinski and James Badge Dale (in the role of Tyrone Woods) — does surprisingly well.  If I sound surprised, that’s because 13 Hours was directed by Michael Bay, a director who is not exactly known for his skill with actors.

It says something about how messed up 2016 has been that, for a few weeks in January, 13 Hours was the most controversial film in America.  When the film was first released, many commentators and critics were convinced that it was all part of a grand conspiracy to keep Hillary Clinton from being elected President.  Now, 11 months later, we can look back and — well, hmmm.  Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected President but that probably has nothing to do with 13 Hours.  If I remember correctly, 13 Hours didn’t exactly set the box office on fire.  It was pretty much forgotten by February.  Unless 13 Hours somehow convinced Hillary Clinton to not campaign in Wisconsin or Michigan, I imagine that it had little influence on the actual election.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor, for that matter, Barack Obama are ever mentioned in 13 Hours.  (Then again, the film also never tries to convince us that the attack was solely the result of a YouTube video, either.)  That’s not to say that there isn’t a political subtext to 13 Hours.  (It’s impossible to make a movie about Americans with guns in the Middle East without there being some sort of political subtext.)  However, that subtext has less to do with what happened during the attack and more about whether or not the U.S. should have even gotten involved in the Libyan Civil War in the first place.  If anything, 13 Hours seems to be suggesting that any sort of American military intervention in the Middle East is doomed to failure.

Make no mistake about it.  Thematically, 13 Hours is Michael Bay’s darkest film.  It starts with disturbing footage of the Libyan revolution and it ends with shots that linger over the ruins of the compound that several men were either killed or wounded attempting to defend.  Even those who manage to survive the 13-hour battle are left scarred, both physically and emotionally.  For perhaps the first time in a Bay film, no attempt is made to make war look heroic or inviting.  There’s none of the over the top sentimentality that typifies so many of Bay’s other films.  Instead, there’s just John Krasinski sobbing as he realizes that his friends are dead.

That said, Bay has to be Bay.  In some ways, 13 Hours is his most mature film to date but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t showcase a lot of Bay’s flaws as a filmmaker.  At 2 and a half hours, the film is at least 50 minutes too long and the scenes of Krasinski talking to his pregnant wife feel like they were lifted from an unpolished second draft of American Sniper and, as a result, they’re never as powerful as they were obviously meant to be.  As usual, Bay does better with the action sequences than with the human element.

In the end, 13 Hours is a frequently harrowing, if rather uneven, film.  If nothing else, it may be remembered for heralding the unlikely emergence of John Krasinski, action star.

635881144692964630-ap-film-review-13-hours-the-secret-soldiers-of-be-78723528