At 140 minutes long, while you’re watching Den Of Thieves there will have been three bank robberies in Los Angeles. That’s one every 48 minutes.
It genuinely doesn’t feel overlong though, and I say that as someone who firmly believes that all Gerard Butler films over two hours should have pelvic floor exercises on the posters for the mums in the audience.
Its full title should really be Robbing Hood: Den Of Thieves, what with its “we are the bad guys” Sheriff Nick O’Brien (Gerard Butler), and opposite number in the heist crew Ray (and I’m not making this up) Merrimen.
Den Of Thieves 1 minute video review
The plot is basic in outline but complex in execution. And even by the end I wasn’t sure why certain events had taken place; if I had missed something, or the scriptwriters had.
There’s a hold up in a car park early one morning. Several guards and a cop are dead, but the thieves only get away with an empty cash delivery truck. Big Nick sets out his stall immediately on arrival there: swearing constantly, mocking Uptight FBI Guy, and chucking a half-eaten donut into the chalked-up crime scene. A rule breaker and would-be iconoclast (“we just shoot you – it’s less paperwork”), it’s soon clear he doesn’t know when to call a halt in his personal or work life.
The LA County Sheriff’s department has a slate of unsolved heists stretching back to the early 00s, all showing unusual levels of finesse, and all coinciding with Ray Merrimen (a nuanced Pablo Schreiber) not being in prison. Bring down his crew and all those crimes should be solved.
Big Nick himself – a man who survives rather than thrives on a diet of strippers, beer, cigarettes, and donuts – only really comes alive when he’s working in his office, planning and plotting and working out details. Just like Merrimen in his lock-up garage, though while he is working forwards, Nick is forced to work in reverse.
They’re certainly more similar than they are distant: “where did it go wrong” ponders Nick as he looks at a black and white photograph of Merrimen serving in the Forces, the marine’s face a study in commitment. And they’re both men who only really blossom when they’re working on each side of the case. But Merriman is coolly focussed where O’Brien is a loose cannon. And focus too much on one person and you take your eye off the ball.
Nick and his team see everyone as the enemy, at one point rather brilliantly having a full-on fight with the LAPD in front of a bank while a hold-up with several hostages goes on inside.
The question is, whose hubris will be their undoing – Big Nick and Major Crimes, or Merrimen and his merry men (look, they started it with the puns).
For Ray Merrimen the next prize is the big one: breaching the unbreachable security systems of Los Angeles Federal Reserve Bank. Harder to get into than Maid Marian’s medieval chastity belt (I’d better stop with that analogy, or my feminist ID card will be taken off me), it has $500-800 billion in situ at any one time.
The serial numbers are recorded, but once old notes are earmarked for destruction the numbers are deleted from the Reserve database; leaving a window for the theft of 30 million untraceable dollars. More than enough for new bows and arrows all round, and perhaps a jaunty hat with a feather in it for Merrimen.
Nick is blatant, combining surveillance with trolling on an epic scale (and sometimes not even bothering with the surveillance). He even turns up at a shooting facility to both check out his opponent’s hit-rate and (of course) to show off.
I’ll admit that with only a paper-thin sliver of morality separating the bad guys (the heist crew) from the really bad guys (the County Sheriff’s department), I wasn’t really that bothered who would actually win.
And despite both men ostensibly heading up close-knit teams, apart from heist member Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr), and Nick’s colleague Gus (Mo McRae), none of the others are particularly memorable (and could be interchangeable between teams, though presumably that’s the point).
The final traffic-jam gun battle, starting off between two rows of stationary cars as machine gun fire peppers the air and bulked up, bullet-proofed giants dodge round vehicles, is numbing but exciting, even if I couldn’t remember who was who. But it soon takes an even more bleakly nihilistic turn, as two men who by now seem to need each other for some kind of validation, fight on.
Far too self-aware to allow himself to delve too deep into his own psyche, Big Nick is enough of a misbehaving mess to be believable, without collapsing into caricature. Butler takes him as deep as he can go, and he’s rather affecting as someone who can’t be a family man so (because?) he’s built a whole other family around him at work.
His distress over his entirely self-created marriage break-up is believable, even if Nick doesn’t ever allow himself the space to make changes rather than simply empty promises. It’s frustrating though that his wife and children soon disappear from the narrative, once she discovers his infidelity (one of them anyway).
I’m no bank heist movie aficionado, though I’m guessing that little in Den Of Thieves is new. And the two-sides-of-the-same-coin foes, the impossible to rob building, the twists and double crossings and flashbacks, are familiar tropes from many genres. But the film is (despite the convolutions) rather straightforward in its aims, and acquits itself admirably within those confines.
One of those movies that is in many ways breathtakingly silly whilst also maintaining an impressively serious level of self-belief, Den of Thieves is a disarmingly entertaining ride. It also manages to balance frantic fire power with thoughtful planning, and brawn with brain, with a dollop of emotion thrown into the mix.
And O’Brien’s appallingly unhealthily lifestyle (I most wanted to make Big Nick a chicken salad sandwich and give him a bath) should make the most vitamin-averse viewer feel virtuous.
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*** A Den Of Thieves sequel has been announced – find out more ***
Watch The Den Of Thieves second trailer here:
eneurian erwin says
agree with you on most points. i do wish they’d given me another 20 minutes to finish out the family bits. I thought the 140 minutes of Gerard Butler was the pelvic floor exercises. i know i’m exhausted by the credit roll!!!
Yes you wonder what ended up on the cutting room floor. She did give him a good pounding, I’ll give her that. And he looks good grizzled!
Arthur G. says
This is far from the best film you will ever see but in a time when I’m often left thinking why did I bother, this was a refreshing change. From start to finish, this goes along at just the right pace and the 140 minutes soon goes by. The acting is good, the storyline is clever and smart and isn’t merely a copycat of other heist films.
Could anyone explain why Merriman’s get away car was filled with the shredded money? What happened to the 30 mil? If Donnie got it, how did he do it? Color me confused…
Donnie arranged for the two dump trucks from the fed reserve to cross paths. Merrimen’s guy then followed the one with only shredded currency and the one with the old circulated currency was driven somewhere else. The Samoan telecom expert wasn’t in on Donnie’s plan, because he was too close inside Merrimen’s gang which was evident when he asked Merrimen “where am I going”? and Merrimen didn’t answer him, and he got upset, which wouldn’t have been the case had he been aware of Donnie’s plan, although he was told later and included since he was seen in London at the bar with the others.
It shows in the movie that Donnie and the others placed the money into tires and had the tires shipped to a different country to an alias. That’s how they got the money out of the US and safely to them. There is like a 5-10 minutes chunk of the movie that shows them putting the money in the tire and labeling the tires and loading them on a truck
But how did Donnie get access to shredded currency and properly bag it so that exact truck would have the exact right number of decoy bags? He didn’t have time inside and lacked access to the shredding room so at least one other person had to help him and is around to talk. Tell me the Feds aren’t going to squeeze anyone involved in shredded currency disposal.
Also the bags in handling by the crew would not have felt like wads of flat or crumpled cash being that they were tightly compressed “tablets” of shredded money. Someone at the junk yard would have noticed the difference. Have you ever seen a caper movie where at least one bag of loot was not inspected?
How did Donnie know the crew of military trained killers would all be eliminated and not be alive to come after him because of the double-cross?
The surviving electronics expert certainly would have heard of the shredded money heist and figured out Donnie had the cash. Why is Donnie not worried about him and a revenge crew coming for him and the untracable $$$$$?
As cut, the movie’s ending comes off poorly being full of holes.
I’ve watched this a few times and just watches it again today. You actually see the Simoan dude again at the very end of the movie in the new bar with him. He was in on it all along.
At the end one of the football players in the picture was the driver of the rubbish lorry / garbage truck. He’s then seen propping up the bar both in LA and London.
I can’t figure out what Gerard Butlers says for his last words in the movie. Can someone tell me?
Just after Gerard Butler lift Ziggys Hofbraw he looks at the fed reserve and realized that Donnie interacted with the people who worked there since he just saw the money counters and the guards meeting there for a brew. He seems to say “fu_king frauline” but I don’t know for sure it’s just what I hear. It doesn’t make much sense for me.
Ok I put captions on and figured it out, he is saying “fu_king Fraulein” which is German for an unmarried woman, same as “Miss” in English: “Fräulein as a formal address for an unmarried woman is now uncommon and considered disrespectful and sexist by some. Frau is the normal address for all …”.
Richard/Mitchell_ Mitchell, you are correct, he says “Fucking fraulein…”. Remember the scene in the Hofbrau early in the movie, when he goes in and starts chatting with Donnie, before kidnapping him for questioning? He was giving him a hard time about being a “barmaid” at a German-themed brauhaus, and called him “fraulein.” At the end of the movie, when he sees the picture on the wall of Donnie and the soccer team, and sees the Fed employees hanging out at the bar, the light bulb comes on in his head, and was really the one pulling all the strings of the heist the whole time, playing both sides — cops AND robbers — for suckers, while looking like the weak link to each, and then disappearing into thin air with the cash.
SHARON DICKEY says
Turn on your closed captioning for the exact words. The reason Nick said that was he realized Donnie (who he called fraulein when he first met Donnie) had gotten away with the money!
I would like to know how Nick (Gerard Butler) knows to head for the area around the Fed reserve after he goes through the tunnel under the vault at the Pico Rivera Savings and Loan, and how does he know that Merrimen’s gang is in the black suburban immediately when he spots it driving about a half mile away? Thanks
Michael M says
Can someone tell me what Ray Merrimen says with his dying breathe, and then when Butler says in reply?
I tried a couple times to make it out.
Saw this a couple of months ago, but I’m pretty sure I remember it was:
-Merrimen: “I told you I wouldn’t cuff up.”
-Butler: Either, “Yeah, you did,” or “Yeah, I know.”
Merrimen told Butler while they were inside of pico Rivera bank he wasn’t “cuffing up”
He was recently paroled 8-9 months ago.
So at the end merrimen kept his word and validated it after being shot 3-5 times by Butler and looked at him and said “I told you” and Butler said “I know”
My favorite part about that scene was Butler shot an ‘unarmed’ soldier. Merrimen tricked Butler into thinking he had a loaded gun so he would shoot him rather than “cuffing up” just like merrimen said he was not going to do.
The lady at the fed who orders food and doesn’t like it calls security at the entrance of the building and describes the food guy as in, “red shirt, white, 1.80m tall”. This is clearly incorrect. Why does she do it??
She said “light”