They may be running to lose fat, but most of the guys in Christian Gudegast’s Den Of Thieves flaunt muscles, tattoos and old-fashioned machismo. The film was reportedly in the works for 14 years; not surprising then that it looks and sounds stale, not only because it is inspired by Michael Mann’s star-studded Heat.
Big Nick (Gerald Butler) and his cop crew are working in Los Angeles, which, we are informed, is the bank robbery capital of the world. They call themselves The Regulators and frequently overstep the boundaries of the law. They are after Ray Merrimen (Pablo Screiber) and his gang of thieves, who, when the film opens, have stolen an empty armoured truck. But shots are fired and the blood of four men is shed, so the pursuit gets hotter.
Merrimen is an expert bank robber, out on parole, whose men (including Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson”) are ex-Marines. It’s not the kind of film that asks why former soldiers are forced to turn to crime. Big Nick knows that Merrimen did this job and is planning another, so he nabs his getaway driver Donnie (O’Shea Jackson) to get information.
While trying to figure out Merrimen’s next move, Big Nick tries to save his marriage and weeps over the separation from his daughters. This shedding of tears is probably just to distinguish him from the bad guys. There must be women in the police force, but here they are just wives in the background, serving no purpose but to add needless family scenes.
The heist Merrimen is planning is huge and devilishly complicated. And, of course, it makes the audience wonder how a top-security federal reserve bank would allow a food delivery guy to wander around the complex, or how air-conditioning ducts are wide enough to have a big man crawling in them and open just where he needs to pick up his prop.
If a film’s villain is smarter and more attractive than the supposed good guy, it sends out mixed signals -- who is the audience to root for? Worse, for a heist caper, the film is slow and boring to the point of being soporific.
Rating: Two stars