Seventeen days before the release of Den of Thieves, The Ringer’s Chris Ryan boldly declared “We Have Only 17 More Days Till Den of Thieves Comes Out” and asked, “What are you doing to prepare?” He was floored by the promise of an I’ve-got-nothing-to-lose Gerard Butler going toe-to-toe with 50 Cent, Ice Cube’s son, and Pornstache from Orange Is the New Black in what more or less looked like an unsanctioned remake of Heat. Those 17 days have now passed—this past Friday, Den of Thieves officially hit theaters. As we are wont to do upon the release of a big film, we created a survey of questions for the Ringer staff to fill out after seeing Den of Thieves. Here’s the thing, though: Only Chris Ryan filled it out. (In retrospect, we maybe should have seen this coming.) His unrepentant, enthusiastic answers are printed below.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Den of Thieves?
Chris Ryan: Not bad enough to make fun of and not good enough to take seriously. (This would be a terrible tweet.) Since I’m all alone in this den of Den of Thieves reaction, I’ll expand a little.
I cannot stress how much of a Heat remake this is. From the ambient, droning keyboard score that tracks the opening-sequence armored truck robbery ...
… to the overhead shots of the nighttime Los Angeles skyline, to cops and robbers as different sides of the same coin story line, to the final shootout taking place in a heavily trafficked area, following an outrageously difficult heist ...
… Den of Thieves knows exactly what movie it wants to be, which is why it feels so inadequate. Jacking Heat is a real “come at the king, best not miss” proposition. There are some really nice details in it—especially the settings in the less-well-trod areas of greater Los Angeles, and the military and athletic backgrounds of most of the main characters. But ultimately it is a Heat homage in look and story, and because of that it can never shake the feeling that it’s just karaoke instead of its own song.
TL;DR: Heat meets The Usual Suspects, but just nowhere near as awesome.
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Ryan: Without question: 50 Cent bracing his teenage daughter’s possibly-Bloods-affiliated prom date, with several Samoan weightlifters and a completely jacked Pablo Schreiber getting his back. Runner-up would be the hotel scene where Big Nick and his crew press O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s Donnie for information about Schreiber and the gang. It was a peek into a different underworld and had the most tension of any scene not directly lifted from Heat.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Ryan: They really gilded the lily with the Keyser Soze twist at the end. It felt like a Fast and Furious ending to what was supposed to be a street-savvy movie.
4. What was your favorite detail about Big Nick, Gerard Butler’s character?
Ryan: How this clearly Scottish dude was claiming to be a Los Angeles high school football legend.
5. Who was your favorite character who had less than five lines?
Ryan: Definitely “Murph,” a sheriff’s deputy played by Brian Van Holt, whom I recognized from every single television show of the past 15 years. He had more than five lines, but he only ever said “What the fuck?” Rest in power, Cougar Town. (I don’t think he actually dies.)
6. Did you understand the final heist, like, at all?
Ryan: Yeah, this was tough. I got it. But these guys needed to spend less money on armor-piercing bullets and more money on a Garmin. So Schreiber’s crew of ex-football/ex-Marine bank robbers jacks a savings and loan located in Montebello, but it’s something of a decoy robbery. The real target of the heist is the Federal Reserve in downtown Los Angeles, approximately 11 miles west. Once they get out of the Reserve, their meeting point is in South Gate. This is the map.
It’s no wonder all these guys died in traffic.
7. Pick your favorite Los Angeles–adjacent town featured in the film.
Ryan: Tough one. I really liked the faux Benihana in Torrance and the new-money abode of Big Nick’s ex, located in Rolling Hills. But my favorite spot has to be the rain-soaked streets of Gardena where the first armored car robbery takes place. Just a classic, rainy Los Angeles setting.
They shot this movie in Atlanta.
8. In your best estimation, what was the “den of thieves” in Den of Thieves?
Ryan: The Home Depot–sized chill zone where bank robbers read the internet and dispose of bodies? The German biergarten where every single character seems to spend their free time? (This actually seemed like a pretty good bar.) Nah, it was 50 Cent’s garage gym.
9. Do you want a Den of Thieves sequel?
Ryan: This movie ends in London, with O’Shea Jackson Jr. working in a pub, casing a diamond exchange to rob. I would rather not have a sequel UNLESS we somehow get a crossover with the Guy Ritchie–verse, and Gerard Butler can reprise his role from the underrated RocknRolla.
Hell, bring Idris Elba and Tom Hardy back. Would anyone actually object? Other than their agents?