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Film / Den of Thieves

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Den of Thieves is a 2018 American heist film co-written, directed and produced by Christian Gudegast. The film stars Gerard Butler, 50 Cent, Pablo Schreiber, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Evan Jones, Dawn Olivieri, Mo McRae, and Max Holloway.

Nick O'Brien (Butler), a detective working in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, is tasked with investigating a armored car robbery committed by Ray Merrimen (Schreiber), a former Marine who has assembled a group of thieves to take high-score robberies.

In the pursuit of Merrimen's crew, O'Brien and his unit of elite cops eventually track down and detain Donnie Wilson (Jackson Jr.), a bartender who acted as a getaway driver for the robbers, but in the absence of information, Wilson is released and rejoins Merrimen and the others to plan a much bigger operation — the robbery of the city's Federal Reserve.

As O'Brien and the other cops close in on Merrimaen's crew, they enact a series of distractions and tricks to steal $30 million in bills from under the noses of the authorities. However, nothing is as it seems, and before the dust settles, someone will have a few tricks up their sleeve...

Den of Thieves contains examples of:

  • Air-Vent Passageway: Donnie escapes from the basement of the Reserve by crawling up an air vent to the second floor.
  • And the Adventure Continues: A villainous example. The movie ends with Donnie and his real crew in London, laying the ground work for a new heist at a diamond exchange.
  • Armed Blag: The gang's opening gambit is hijacking an armoured car when it stops for breakfast. The twist is that the car is empty.
  • Bad Guy Bar: In the final scene, when the audience discovers (via The Reveal) that Donnie used the proceeds from the Federal Reserve heist to open his own bar in the middle of London.
  • BFG: When Merrimen is stuck in the traffic jam and sees the deputies advancing on him from behind, he pulls out a SAW from the back of the truck and sets it up on the bonnet of their vehicle. The deputies are taken completely by surprise when he fires through his own vehicle to attack them, killing one of them in the first volley of shots.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: O'Brien and his unit are charitably described as "elite"... but spend most of their time partying, drinking and making questionable decisions in the line of duty. Conversely, Merriman's crew is a band of thieves that has no compunction about murdering cops by the dozens — but when it comes to civilians, they take steps to avoid unneeded casualties.
  • Blast Out: At the start of the film, Merrimen and his crew are holding the armoured car guards at gunpoint while they hijack the armoured car. Things are going according to plan till one of the guards goes for his gun (or possibly just drops his coffee). Bosco shoots, a firefight kicks off that leaves one robber, most of the guards and several cops dead, and several others injured.
  • The Cameo: MMA fighters Max Holloway, Oleg Taktarov and Michael Bisping all have bit parts.
  • The Chessmaster: Donnie. First, he spends years working at a bar that he knows is frequented by employees of the Federal Reserve, and uses his service job to eavesdrop on their conversations to accumulate enough information to plan the heist. Then he lets Merrimen in on the heist, convincing him that Merrimen and his crew get to reap the lion's share of the cash. He plants his own people inside the Reserve to facilitate access to the Reserve, or enable lifting the prize out of the garbage dumpster. This trope most clearly shows when he deliberately allows both Merrimen's crew and Nick's posse to subject him to Butt-Monkey treatment, causing both groups to grossly underestimate him. He lets Merrimen think Merrimen's crew will take the most active role in pulling off the heist, but in truth he is taking the relatively safest role for himself while allowing Merrimen's crew to take all the physical risks upon themselves. Once he's made it to the garbage dumpster, he switches out the prize cash to his own driver, and leaves Merrimen's driver with useless shredded cash. Merrimen dies without ever knowing he's been double-crossed, as it's Nick who opens the bags with the shredded cash. He also has no issue with walking down the street from the Reserve to present himself as an easy nab for Nick, but the point there is that he's all too ready to give up Merrimen's location to Nick. Then he picks his handcuffs and escapes while Nick's posse is engrossed in an intense and extended fire fight with Merrimen and his crew. And to top it all off, he uses his cash to open a bar in London near the diamond exchange, so that he can gather intel for a heist on the exchange, and coincidentally setting up a Sequel Hook along the way.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: While being chased by Nick, Merrimen sees a thin metal fence on his way and is forced to jump over it. He struggles with it a little, but manages to get on the other side just as Nick catches up to him. Then Nick just shoots him through it, seriously wounding him.
  • Corrupt Cop: O'Brien announces that his crew is basically a gang with badges and that they'll shoot suspects rather than take them in.
  • Defective Detective: O'Brien is a dirty cop who is constantly hungover and has a terrible home life.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Donnie gets a job at as a delivery guy at a nearby Chinese restaurant; knowing that employees at the Federal Reserve often order lunch from there and he will be legitimately allowed into the building to deliver it. This forms part of his exit strategy following the heist.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Merrimen and some of his crew disguise themselves as armored car escorts to infiltrate the Fed Reserve.
  • EMP: Donnie uses a short range EMP device to fritz the camera in the counting room. How the crew got hold of this device is unclear, but it can be assumed that Mack, the team's technical expert, probably has contacts.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Donnie was the real mastermind behind the heist, and even had someone allied with him working in the Federal Reserve building on the day of the heist to throw off suspicion. He recruited Merrimen and his crew intending to set them up to take the fall, while he and his crew made off with the $30 million.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Big Nick pulls this on his ex-wife's boyfriend.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Merrimen's gang is trained to "shoot uniforms, not civilians."
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: During the final shootout, the cops warn the bystanders in their cars to get down in such a way that the engine block is between them and the bullets, letting the audience know that Concealment Equals Cover is not in effect. By the end of the scene, Merrimen is shot through a thin metal fence.
  • Flat Character: There is little-to-no character development in the film, with the majority of the characters' personalities set in stone and not changing by the end of the film. The closest we get is that one character is different from how we thought.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: The bank robbery crew is made up exclusively of ex-Marines.
  • Go Seduce My Archnemesis: After a fight with his soon-to-be ex-wife, O'Brien goes to a strip-club and picks up the dancer who is Merrimen's girlfriend and has sex with her at her apartment, intending to both antagonize Merrimen and obtain information from the girl. This trope comes into play when the audience finds out that Merrimen anticipated this, let it happen and used her to feed O'Brien misinformation.
  • The Heist: Merrimen and his crew are planning a heist on the Federal Reserve Bank in Los Angeles: the 'bank for banks'.
  • Inappropriate Hunger: O'Brien is introduced stealing a donut from a blood-spattered box at a crime scene.
  • Insecurity Camera: Justified. The guards immediately notice when the cameras goes on the fritz, but cannot send anyone one to check it because the counting rooms are in Lock Down due to the brownout. They keep an eye on the fuzzed screen and do their best to fix it from the monitor room, and send someone to investigate as soon as the lock down ends.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: O'Brien and his cops grab Donnie after the robbery at the Fed, then handcuff him to the inside of their truck and beat him until he tells them the location where Merrimen and the rest of the crew are meeting up.
  • Karma Houdini: Donnie and his crew (including the garbageman and the woman with the martini in the final scene who was working in the Reserve and threw off her co-worker's concerns) not only get away scotfree with the theft of $30 million from the Federal Reserve, but they use the proceeds to open a Bad Guy Bar... across the street from a diamond exchange in London, which they're planning to rob next.
  • Large Ham: Big Nick O'Brien. The scene when he's signing the divorce papers with his wife says it all.
  • Lock Down: The Fed goes into lockdown in the event of a brownout, with all power being diverted to keep the security systems functioning. Merrimen and his crew use this to their advantage in planning The Heist; deliberately triggering a brownout to initiate a lockdown.
  • Police Brutality: O'Brien and the Major Crimes Squad have no issues with beating information out of a suspect.
  • Product Placement: Carl's Jr bags.
  • Semper Fi: Merrimen and his crew are all former Marines who have gone From Camouflage to Criminal. A big deal is made about how their military training discipline and training makes them far more organised and dangerous than your average gang of gangbangers.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: O'Brien is eating or drinking in almost every scene where he's not shooting a gun.
  • Suicide by Cop: During the final showdown, Merrimen—having run out of bullets—slams an empty magazine into his gun, making Big Nick think that he has reloaded. He then comes out and points the empty gun at Nick, forcing Nick to shoot him.
  • Tattooed Crook: All of the bank robbery crew except Donnie sport prominent tattoos. So do most of the deputies, who are depicted as being little better than a gang themselves.
  • Throwaway Guns: When running from Big Nick at the end of the film, Merrimen throws away his assault rifle. Justified as the rifle is out of ammo, and Merrimen is looking to disencumber himself to make it easier to escape.
  • Trojan Horse: The crew smuggle Donnie into the Federal Reserve counting room by hiding him inside a currency box, concealed by bundles of cash.
  • Twerp Sweating: When Levoux's daughter's date shows up to collect her for the prom, Leveaux leads him into a room filled with Tattooed Crooks who very politely threaten him.