By Joe Brown
Christian Gudegast’s Den of Thieves is a strong start to what should be a great year for heist movies, especially with Oceans 8 coming out in early summer. If you are like me this film was one you regret not going to see in theatres. It was a new take on the classic cops versus robbers heist tale, there are twists and turns that are far from anticipated.
Oceans 11 saw Brad Pitt and company robbing a large casino. However in this heist the criminals were at the forefront. With no context of the people they were robbing the viewer was very easily able to identify with, and like the clever thieves. This is the most notable difference between this film and Oceans. The viewer has a very hard time between being on the side of the cutthroat dirty cop played by Gerard Butler, or the cunningly quiet Pablo Schreiber.
Again, the narrative in Den of Thieves is very different from what Oceans fans, or heist movie fans in general are used to. The cops are not righteous law abiding and upstanding citizens, they will do anything necessary to close the case even if it means abducting suspects. The thieves are actually far better, they follow a strict moral code and are a close family unit. This seems like the exact opposite of what the typical heist film entails. Although the thieves in many heist films are smug loveable criminals with a troubled past, and the police are amicable hard workers; the drastic change in this film is both refreshing and beneficial to adding depth to the story.
Another change Den of Thieves is the shift away from robbing a large private bank. The main objective is the robing of the Federal Reserve in Las Angeles, a highly secure distribution center. Without giving away any spoilers, it becomes very obvious to the viewer why this is their choice: do to their quest for thieving glory, and mixed past with the government, the Federal Reserve was their El Dorado.
Personally I loved this movie. At first I thought it was going to be a bit of a non stop action thriller, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the developed plot line. The slow build up to a fast paced end sequence was a fine touch by Gudegast; especially considering that most heist films experience their climax somewhere around the middle mark of the film. There is also a twist that brought the whole film together. Normally these twists simply reveal how the gang pulled off a near impossible heist. In this film Gudegast develops an unlikely character who is ultimately reveals as the mastermind behind the whole operation, no spoilers but it is not who you suspect it would be.
Overall this film scored a four and a half stars out of five in my rating. The only thing I disliked was the inclusion of information, and characterizing cutscenes that had no impact on the main characters later in the film. Other than that the film was spectacular, the action was realistic and the planning behind the heist actually made sense.