You’re not the bad guys. We are. - TopTenMM Heist Movies

Updated: Feb 22, 2020

Nominee #16 - Den of Thieves (2018)

When a group of the most successful bank robbers plan an extravagant heist on the Federal Reserve Bank, they butt heads with an elite unit of LA County Sheriff's Dept.


Christian Gudegast Writers:

Christian Gudegast Stars:

Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O'Shea Jackson Jr.

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Den of Thieves directed by Christian Gudegast, his directorial debut, follows a team of highly skilled thieves led by Ray Merriman (Pablo Schreiber) as they plan an ambitious heist on the Federal Reserve Bank. However, with an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Department on their back led by the ruthless, no-nonsense ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien (Gerard Butler), their heist may prove to be more challenging than they anticipated.

Den of Thieves got its priorities right.

The premise is familiar, in fact reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat and is arguable heavily inspired by the 1995 classic. Yet it brings a voice of its own driven by strong performances, intelligent direction and impressive action sequences. Den of Thieves was a surprise, the trailers suggested another churned out, disposable action movie, and Gerard Butler’s filmography at the time conveyed a similar possibility. However, what audiences got was a well-crafted, gritty heist film.

Den of Thieves got its priorities right. While several films in the genre might be tempted to focus on action and spectacle, Den of Thieves focussed on its plot and its characters. Instead of becoming a forgettable action movie, Den of Thieves chose to explore the psychological game of cat and mouse between criminal and cop, much like Heat. The action, while impressive is not the purpose of this movie, characters are. Den of Thieves keeps its feet grounded in reality, there is no rigid division between good and bad, the cops act like criminals at times and the criminals sometimes seem to be the more decent band of characters.

Pablo Schreiber delivers a powerful performance. His character is subdued and professional, subtle and calm, the perfect opponent for Gerard Butler’s brash, gruff, loud performance, one of his best in years. The two rarely meet on screen, yet their psychological battle is the strength of the film. Their characters are intelligent, strong, and yet vastly different. The director understands that while a good action sequence may be memorable, its impact is considerably improved if the audience cares for the characters, and whether we agree with the characters or not, the film ensures that we care. The audience is thrown into conflict, one moment rooting for the cops the next with the criminals, the characters seem genuine and authentic, neither pure nor evil.

Den of Thieves slipped under the radar, for the most part, a victim of false expectations. There is passion behind the camera, a genuine story to be told and the director takes his time unwrapping the plot, and despite the hefty run time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, the riveting plot, the powerful characters and slick direction make the journey an entertaining one. Den of Thieves is directed with restraint and rooted in the real world, it’s a heist movie without the fireworks and while that may seem a doomed formula, Den of Thieves pulls it off.

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