Den of Thieves (2018): ‘Emotion and Plot’ – A Film Review



Back in 2003 a writer began the development of a film through New Line Cinemas. This would become his first directorial effort in 2018. Though Christian Gudegast has written other films it would appear that this is his opus. Den of Thieves is a heist, a cop film, an action movie and Gerard Butler is at its core, but this would be missing the point. Many action films pride themselves on lavish and expensive action sequences and many heist movies pride themselves on clever twists and turns, as that which they seek unexpectedly gets harder and harder to reach. Den of Thieves could be just one of many of examples of these kinds of films or it could be the film Christian Gudegast was hoping it would be.


The Characters

Cocky and charming, tough and threatening and all the while sad and broken; Gerard Butler feels like a tragic Axel Foley. Giving a wonderful performance but so accurately framed by the tense atmospheres surrounding him. Similarly, Pablo Schreiber, also gives a wonderful command of the space as a calm and calculating individual and very dangerous. Whilst beneath this is a strength of unity. In some ways the moral ambiguity and the fact that both characters mimic each other is very similar to other films like Heat or, in fact, many other films that play the cost of a hero and the question of what is right – Donnie Brasco does this. A gang has a sense of family and protection in the same way a cop might whilst both lives may be tragic due to the circumstances or the difficulties of the job. The atmosphere is tense and hard but powerful.


The Story

However, other lifted moments from films feel to drag these wonderful moments back. The twist ending though not exactly predictable isn’t exactly satisfying and feels at odds with the themes of the film. All the while subplots that create wonderfully sympathetic moments and tension in the characters life, such as their family, feels lost in the film. Though this may be simply to only create sympathy and reflect what’s at stake for a character, though it feels like a completely separate part of the film that is neglected. Furthermore the climactic battle, having been built up with very little dialogue so effectively thus far, just seems to trail off. Especially where it could have made some comment on the built subplots thus far – playing on the tragedy for example.



Den of Thieves is an impressively atmospheric film and it almost allows for moments to be forgiven. Whilst so many scenes are wonderfully crafted as characters are compared, built up and given emotional depth, the narrative builds its tensions. But Den of Thieves begins to lose track of where it wants to go with it all, it drops threads, holds its punches and rushes a twist. It isn’t predictable but it doesn’t keep its depth either.



Hard edged cop, ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien (Gerard Butler), leads a gang of rough and dirty cops that go heavily undercover to seek out some of the hardest to track criminals before they make their next move.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned


Den of Thieves (d. Christian Gudegast USA 2018)

Donnie Brasco (d. Mike Newell USA 1997)

Heat (d. Michael Mann USA 1995)



Further Reading

Official Site

Interview with Gerard Butler and 50 Cent

Interview with Christian Gudegast

Interview with Pablo Schrieber

Behind the Scenes

All You Needed to Know


If you liked this…

The Commuter (2018): ‘Part of a Genre’ – A Film Review

Logan (2017) – A Film Review

Murder on the Orient Express (2017): ‘Performing a Book’  – A Film Review


This was an analytical review of….


Den of Thieves (d. Christian Gudegast USA 2018)


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