By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
“Den of Thieves”
marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Christian Gudegast, (“London has Fallen” and “A Man Apart”).
The suspenseful heist drama is also the second major role for O’Shea Jackson Jr. since his feature film debut in 2015’s hit biopic, “Straight Outta Compton.” And once again, the 26-year-old actor shines here among the rest of the stellar cast.
In “Den of Thieves” Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber, TV’s “American Gods”) loves robbing banks and has become quite good at it. So much so, the former military veteran is one of the most sought after bank robbers in Los Angeles which, by the way according to the film, is the bank robbery capital of the world where an average of 2,400 banks are robbed each year.
Actually, that may just be the most believable thing in “Den of Thieves” since much of the movie is so farfetched, but if you can suspend your disbelief, it’s a thrilling ride.
Anyway, despite being recently released from jail, Merrimen has concocted an elaborate scheme to rob Los Angeles’ Federal Reserve Bank. Why? Because that’s where all the money is or roughly $120 million in cash which is taken out of circulation and destroyed by the branch every day. Merrimen and his boys want every bit of it.
His team consists of some guys he’s known from back in the day playing football at Long Beach High and from spending time in the slammer.
Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr) is the getaway driver whose skills behind the wheel top Ansel Elgort’s’ in “Baby Driver.”
Levi (50 Cent/Curtis Jackson, TV’s “Power”) is always in for some action along with Bosco (Evan Jones, TV’s “Legends of Tomorrow”).
Merrimen and his squad have no clue at first that they are being watched by a corrupt sheriff's detective named Big Nick Flanagan (a maniacal Gerard Butler, “Geostorm”) and his morally bankrupt sidekicks. They’re really an elite gangster unit operating within the sheriff's department who protect and serve in their own special way.
When they track, shake and beat Donnie down for information, the movie swings into high gear.
“Den of Thieves” owes a great deal to Michael Mann’s “Heat” and other heist movies like “Takers” starring rapper T.I., Chris Brown, Idris Elba, Matt Dillon and the late Paul Walker as well as the 2009 movie “Armored” with Laurence Fishburne and Columbus Short.
Yet, just when you think you’ve got this story nailed down, along comes another fastball. The real fun with “Den of Thieves” is watching how the line between the good and bad guys gets blurred and the clever and unpredictable plot twists unfold. It will make you wonder if everyone is on the take here and just who’s zooming who.
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Check Out This Trailer For "DEN OF THIEVES"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.