Big Nick (Gerard Butler) is a tough, no-nonsense cop who heads up the Major Crimes unit. Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) is a career criminal with military training who's planning a major heist on the Federal Bank Reserve in downtown Los Angeles with the help of Donnie (O'Shea Jackson, Jr.), a skilled driver who's caught between the two.
At some stage, if he's ever hard up for cash, Michael Mann should consider suing Christian Gudegast for plagiarism - as the opening hour of Den Of Thieves is essentially a beat-for-beat remake of Heat. You've got the highly-skilled team of bank robbers led by an implacable, focused leader with dead eyes and the free-wheeling, cocksure cop-but-isn't-he-just-a-crook-with-a-badge, you've got the rigorous use of music and what passes for technical know-how, and then comes the reveal that the two central characters have the roles flipped - the one who you think is a criminal is actually a relatively decent person, whilst the cop is actually a prick who's a terrible husband.
Even if you leave this aside and assume that you've never watched Heat, the fact remains that Den Of Thieves' central premise isn't even executed properly here. The story introduces the two crews, but never bothers to fill them out enough to a point where you'd actually care what happens to them. What's more, the performances from the entire supporting cast is so half-assed that when they are shot down in the poorly directed and blandly staged shootouts, it has no impact. The film does its best, pausing the machismo bullshit to show that Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson is actually a family man and his crew of bro-criminals scare the daylights out of a potential suitor for his child. All this does instead is remind us how poor it all is.
Pablo Schreiber, as we know from the likes of Netflix's Orange Is The New Black, is a fine actor and can command a scene and the audience's attention whenever he puts his mind to it. Here, unfortunately, Christian Gudegast's bland screenplay - which must set a record for the amount of sentences started with the word 'bro' - lets him down entirely, and does nothing in the way of illuminating his motivations beyond simply wanting to steal a lot of money. Gerard Butler, meanwhile, comes off like a roided-up Al Pacino in one of those crap, straight-to-video films he did in the latter part of the his career without a hint of subtlety. The only person in the cast who comes off half-decent is O'Shea Jackson, Jr. - but the ending for his character is so laughably done that it ruins everything that came before.
As mention, Christian Gudegast's screenplay is just abysmal, and doesn't even come within sight of the likes of Heat, Ocean's 11 or any other heist thriller it tries to rip off. The direction is resolutely uninspired, and none of the action sequences - which are nestled between what feels like hours of cliche-riddled dialogue - are even remotely thrilling or inspired. In the end, you're left with a waste of two hours and nothing to show for it.