In 1995, Michael Mann-directed crime-drama Heat provided high-octane action scenes and visceral thrills.
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro excelled as the head cop and criminal respectively, while the story itself was rich in detail.
The movie became an instant classic and a staple of the heist-crime genre.
Since its release, the genre has seen its share of forgettable and disposable entries – everything from Takers to Triple 9 has tried and failed to reach Heat’s prowess.
Admittedly, Ben Affleck-helmed flick The Town managed to stand out from the pack.
The latest entry, Den of Thieves, is yet another lukewarm, disposable copy of Heat.
The movie begins promisingly, as a criminal outfit steals an armoured truck and gets into a deadly shootout with Los Angeles police.
The team – comprised of marine veterans Ray (Pablo Schreiber) and Levi (Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson) along with driver Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) – then prepares for its biggest heist yet.
LA Sheriff Nick “Big Nick” O’Brien (Gerard Butler) gathers his team of ultra-tough detectives to take the criminal squad down.
Heat excelled thanks to fleshed-out, three dimensional characters on both sides of the law.
Sadly, Den of Thieves delivers a basic, by-the-numbers cops-and-robbers plot.
At this point, the ‘one last job’ cliche has worn out its welcome.
The movie is too ‘tough’ and ‘gritty’ for emotional heft, reducing every character to one-liners and tough-guy posturing.
Butler is suitably charismatic in action mode, but his character is a big, ol’ bowl of terrible.
His intimidating, brutish nature is a questionable choice in today’s divisive socio-political climate.
One sub-plot, revolving around his strained marriage, does almost nothing to humanise or develop him.
Schreiber and Jackson Jr. fare better, with their characters shown to live by strict codes of conduct.
Writer/director Christian Gudegast’s style closely resembles Mann and David Ayer’s.
The opening sequence is effective, thanks largely to the crisp sound design of the gunfire and grenades.
More so, the final shootout/chase gives the actors time to shine.
For all the bombast, machismo and high-octane action, Den of Thieves is worth little more than a lazy Sunday afternoon viewing.