Overview: To quote Dave Merrill, “Den of Thieves is a love letter to Heat.” This is a classic bank heist flick that pays due homage to Michael Mann’s seminal caper film. From assembling the crew, to casing the joint, to dodging the dogged detective that’s constantly breathing down their neck, Den of Thieves weaves together all the classic themes of the romanticized robber story.
What We Like: The leader of the heist crew, Ray Merriman, is billed as a “Force Recon MARSOC FAST Marine” who “specializes in soldiering.” (Sorry, Jarheads. It made us cringe, too.) Despite clumsily slapping together three different Marine Corps units to set his experience, it does establish Merriman as a consummate professional operator who runs a tight ship and doesn’t shy away from using tactical deception or violence of action to score his big payday.
The opening sequence, an armored car heist (thanks again, Heat), ends with a shootout with cops that includes team-communication, effective covering fire, and the use of improvised munitions to sterilize their vehicle of all forensic evidence. But the crown jewel of Den of Thieves’ gunslinging action is the final firefight between Merriman’s crew and the robbery task force led by Detective “Big Nick” O’Brien, played by Gerard Butler.
The shoot-out happens in a quintessential L.A. traffic jam and is initiated when Merriman himself opens up on the detectives with a Paratrooper SAW laid over the hood of their black Suburban. What ensues is a textbook exercise in team-based bounding, both closing-to-contact by the cops and breaking contact by the robbers. Neither team is left unscathed as emergency reloads, weapons transitions, cover-versus-concealment, and body armor are all displayed in a slightly more realistic manner than we’ve seen in other movies.
Gun Guy Highlights: There’s no disputing the giggle factor of watching the bad guy you’ve been secretly rooting for open up with a belt-fed through vehicles to lay covering fire for the initial attempt to break contact. In the same scene, Gerard Butler gets style points for rocking an unobtanium SCAR-16 in a sea of kitted-out ARs and short shotguns. Perhaps even more noteworthy, when that runs dry, he transitions to an FNX-45 equipped with a C-More red dot. Even in today’s day and age, it’s still disappointingly rare to see anybody employing dot-equipped pistols.