*. Well, this wasn’t very pleasant.
*. Lots of movies have unlikeable characters. For a long time the only stock of bodies in slasher flicks and dead teenager movies came from the usual bunch of morons and jerks you couldn’t wait to see die in some horrible way. A comedy may be filled with satirical caricatures, and a drama may be populated by mostly bad people. But Den of Thieves misjudges our sympathy for such types, asking us to get behind a bunch of jerks I wouldn’t want to spend two minutes alone with. And this movie is a whopping 140 minutes long!
*. It’s a heist movie. A gang of master thieves is looking to rob the Federal Reserve Bank in Los Angeles, which everyone takes to be impossible. On the other side, a team of hard-driving police officers is out to stop them.
*. Much is made of the fact that there’s no way to tell the cops from the robbers. The leader of the police (Gerard Butler) warns one captive, before torturing him, that the police are a gang as well, only they have badges. Both sides have obviously spent a lot of time in the gym and getting covered in tattoos so that with their shirts off it’s hard to tell them apart.
*. They’re all ex-jocks, ex-military, ex-cons, and in the years since they’ve just gained a bit of man fat around the middle. Butler apparently had to gain twenty pounds for the role. That’s a guy thing. He looks like he hasn’t taken a shower in . . . well, it looks like he doesn’t take showers. Even after working out. Which is probably why his woman has left him. He has a cry in his pick-up after seeing his daughter in the playground, through a chain-link fence. Oh, the mess he has made of his life. The pain he has caused these innocents. But duty calls. He must return to being an alpha asshole.
*. This is so overdone it’s hard to miss, and few critics did. Andrea Thompson called it out for containing “some of the most egregious examples of toxic masculinity I’ve ever seen in a modern movie,” and much as I roll my eyes at invocations of “toxic masculinity” I have to grant her point. I mean, the cops here even have a weight bench set up in their office. Women are absent except as strippers and Butler’s aforementioned wife, who bails on him. The men crack jokes about gay sex but also like to give manly hugs to their bros, or bruhs, or brahs, or whatever they call each other when they’re pumping each other up.
*. A little of this would go a long way and there’s a lot of it. I’ve said it’s unpleasant and several scenes are downright hard to watch. Probably the worst is when Butler (his character’s name is Big Nick) shows up at a dinner party his ex is attending and tries to humiliate her or the guests. I’m not sure what the point of that was. It was really uncomfortable.
*. As for the rest of the movie there’s not much to say. It was universally compared to Heat, a movie I’ve always found to be overrated. Still, it’s better than this. The heist itself is wildly improbable, and made even more so because we can’t believe for a second that this gang of meatheads could come up with such a plan, or pull it off. Nor can we believe Big Nick capable of figuring out what is going on. There’s some bizarre back-and-forth between him and an FBI agent where he all but shouts his incompetence from the rooftops, but still I think we’re supposed to assume that he’s actually good at his job.
*. The final shootout was reasonably well done, but it had been done before, better, in Sicario. The twist ending struck some reviewers as too much. I thought it, by this time, de rigueur in such a film. Most proximately I was reminded of the end of Logan Lucky. In any event, I can’t think of any reason for a follow-up, but there were immediate reports of a sequel. At least it couldn’t be any worse. Could it? The presence of all those MMA fighters in the London bar at the end may make us wonder.