• by Wes Singleton

Den of Thieves, C

Rated R, 140 minutes

I enjoy a good heist flick from time to time. The mildly entertaining yet dumb new thriller "Den of Thieves" isn't one of them. It's too long and too messy, in spite of a mildly entertaining ending that seems to be pulled out of a hat.

An elite unit from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department led by Nick O'Brien (Gerard Butler) squares off against a crew of successful thieves led by Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), Levi (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) and Donnie (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) who plan a seemingly impossible heist -- the city's Federal Reserve Bank.

"Den of Thieves" is the kind of mindless, guilty-pleasure trash you find in January, not to mention is a painful reminder that Gerard Butler still hasn't made a truly great live-action movie since "300." It's directed by Christian Gudegast, screenwriter for Butler's "London Has Fallen" in his feature directorial debut, and is co-written by Gudegast and "Prison Break's" Paul Scheuring.

It's also a reminder that the bad guys are often the more interesting ones, with "Straight Outta Compton's" charming O'Shea Jackson stealing some scenes, especially in the final act; he's the only one of the large cast who gives the film some life amongst the many other cardboard cut-out types here (50 Cent is given very little to do). Otherwise, it has too many unnecessary characters and subplots, particularly with Butler's character, who we care little about, adding in about 30 extra minutes of junky filler.

"Den of Thieves" fills a middle act full of plot holes and contrivances, big enough you can literally fit in a man-hole cover and sewer, a startling, ridiculous contrivance that isn't mentioned at all until very late in the film. The climax, filled with a menage of bullets, is action-packed and entertaining enough I suppose, but it's important that we have to wait until the very end for the best part, a surprise ending that seems more of an afterthought.

"Den of Thieves" is a mildly entertaining but forgettable thriller made better by the appealing O'Shea Jackson Jr. and a silly twist at the end.

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