Den of Thieves

Gerard Butler turned into Mel Gibson, if Mel Gibson would’ve been Denzel’s character in Training Day. That won’t be the only movie you think of watching this. You’ll think Usual Suspects, Heat, Rampart, and from last year — Logan Lucky.

The premise is interesting. There’s a crew of bank robbers. You know the type in movies — they pull off the biggest heists because they research every aspect of it. The cops (“Regulators”) are a special crime unit of the LA Sheriff’s Department that…uh…plays by their own set of rules. They’re lead by a madman (mad max?) that’s a loose canon. Hell, why shouldn’t I use cliches to write my review, when the movie is nothing by goofy, unrealistic cliches? You have to believe there’s a group of cops that just grabs suspects and beats them up, while they have prostitutes servicing them in a hotel room. And that they just start shooting guns into crowded traffic, or when one of them is going through a divorce — just shows up and bullies everyone in the house, including the new guy his wife is on a date with.

The cast all does fine with the script they’re given. O’Shea Jackson (son of Ice Cube), continues to impress me in everything he does. He shows a nice vulnerability and intelligence with his character.

Pablo Schreiber, brother of Liev, is really intimidating as Merriman, who leads the crew of bad dudes.

Rapper 50 Cent looks inquisitive and somewhat menacing, although…the scene where his daughter has a prom date picking her up is among the stupidest things I’ve seen on film in years (although the crowd at the screening loved it).

The problem with this movie is that every scene is idiotic. It opens with Nick (Butler) showing up at a crime scene, making comments about the bodies strewn across the parking lot, and eating donuts out of a box one of the victims was holding. I understand cops like donuts, but isn’t that tampering with evidence? Not to mention that…I’d be concerned that some blood splatter might be glazing that donut. That’s the least of the implausibilities of it all, and there are really too many to bother listing.

Sometimes, things just don’t make sense. After Nick and his goons beat up on O’Shea’s character, they decide later in the movie to confront him and his crew at an Asian restaurant. What’s the point of that? Do they really want to blow the fact that they’ve got an “informant” working for them?

When Nick shows up to see his daughter on the playground at school, talking to her through a chainlink fence…the bell rings and recess is over. The teacher casually says the girl’s name and tells her to come inside. Uh, no concern about a strange, unshaven guy at a fence talking to a little girl?

When the cops stake out a bank before a heist, oh crap…I’m doing it. I’m listing all the things that annoyed me about this.

Of course, we get an FBI character that’s stiff, and hates Nick. The audience is supposed to hate him, too because…well, he’s yelling at the protagonist. And that’s who we’ve been taught to dislike when watching a film because…he’s a square, and doesn’t know how to really go about catching the bad guys.

It’s not surprising that this mess was written by writer/director Christian Gudegast, who gave us Butler’s horrible London Has Fallen.

Another of the many horrible scenes, has the two leaders eyeballing each other at a gun range. When Merriman leaves, Nick goes over and pulls his target in to see how he did. All the shots are right in the center of the target. I immediately thought of three better scenes involving a gun range — one being Mel Gibson making a smiling face with bullet holes in Lethal Weapon.

The difference is that in Lethal Weapon, we could root for the two cops. And we had fun watching the crazy bad guy (Gary Busey). In this, you pretty much dislike them all, giving you no rooting interest.

The film did have a handful of interesting things, and I’m sure most moviegoers aren’t going to be bored watching it. There was one edit that showed the bad guys getting ready for the big heist, jumping back and forth with the officers preparing in a similar fashion.

There was also an interesting way O’Shea gets into a highly secure bank — by getting a job delivering food for a Chinese restaurant (although you wonder why he can’t leave the food at the front desk, instead of jumping through all these hoops before being allowed into a highly secure area to deliver his order).

When I watched Bright on Netflix recently, something struck me about the scene in which they went into a strip club. I thought about how in Beverly Hills Cop, it worked. Eddie Murphy wanted to hang out and have a drink, and it all made the two stuffy officers feel uncomfortable (and it helped that Vanity’s “Nasty Girl” was blasting).

Will Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, was one of the most vocal people in Hollywood when the Oscar’s didn’t have any Black nominees. She’s also been seen wearing a “Times Up” pin. I wonder if she had a problem with that scene in Bright that had naked women dancing on stage, when it added nothing to the story. And will she, and other actresses, have a problem with a film like this that has the worst female characters. They’re either strippers, prostitutes, or a wife punching her husband for cheating on her (and in my opinion, for drinking milk straight out of the carton after coming home at 6 a.m.).

Along with women complaining their aren’t enough roles for women, somebody needs to talk about why we always need scenes in strip clubs. It just seems so exploitative [side note: the strippers in this club were in bikinis, but it’s still rated R for the violence].

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.