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Don’t go in ‘Den of Thieves’

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From left, Pablo Schreiber, Curtis Jackson, Evan Jones and O’Shea Jackson Jr. are the appealing bad guys in “Den of Thieves.” (Courtesy STX)

“Den of Thieves” is an apt title.

In the heist movie, a band of robbers comes up with an intricate and outrageous plan to rob the apparently impenetrable Federal Reserve in Los Angeles.

The den of thieves are led by Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), who seems to work mainly with family members, but also employs a tight, trusted team. Levi Enson (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) is a senior member, and young Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) is a crackerjack driver.

In the movie’s only warm, funny scene, Enson meets his teen daughter’s prom date. He quietly leads him into a garage/gym area, filled with huge, muscular, scary-looking tough guys. “Have her back at 11:30, OK?” The date eagerly agrees.

These thieves are actually somewhat likable and arguably should have been the main characters. Sadly, they’re the movie’s bad guys.

The heroes, the sheriff’s department, are led by “Big Nick” Flanagan (Gerard Butler), who, frankly, is a huge jerk.

In his worst moment, Nick shows up, uninvited, to harass and intimidate his wife, her sister and their friends after she has filed divorce papers. The scene ends with him being asked to leave; you may find yourself wishing he could leave the movie as well.

“Den of Thieves” seems to take pleasure in the irreverence of the sheriff’s officials, although they come across far more creepy than cool.

As they question a suspect in a hotel room filled with booze and strippers, Nick asks, referring to his band of tattooed, bearded, weightlifters, “Do we look like we would arrest you? We just shoot you. Less paperwork.”

Screenwriter Christian Gudegast makes his directorial debut on “Den of Thieves”; his previous writing credit was another terrible Gerard Butler movie, “London Has Fallen.”

Behind the camera, Gudegast’s technique seems to be to try to preserve every precious word he has written, so much so that information tends to be repeated again and again. During one sequence, a character has trouble with a walkie-talkie and explains it — four times.

The movie trudges on to a lethargic, flabby 140 minutes.

In another rookie mistake, Gudegast provides the usual “Mission: Impossible” sequence in which the high-tech security measures of the Fed are shown and explained; this is great stuff. But he cuts in a scene of Nick trying to figure out who the robbers are, effectively killing both scenes.

Moreover, the droning, monotonous shootout sequences that open and close the movie only indicate that Gudegast loves his guns. He shows plenty of people firing, but forgets to show anything being hit.

And so it goes. Essentially. “Den of Thieves” is more filler for the month of January. Truthfully, a pretty good, tighter, shorter movie might have been rescued from this dumb, disagreeable behemoth, but nobody bothered. Ticket buyers shouldn’t either.

REVIEW
Den of Thieves
One and a half stars
Starring Gerard Butler, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Pablo Schreiber
Written by Christian Gudegast, Paul Scheuring
Directed by Christian Gudegast
Rated R
Running time 2 hours, 20 minutes

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