Den of Thieves, released in the United States in January 2018, has a lot going for it. With a cast that includes Gerard Butler, O’Shea Jackson Jr. (rapper Ice Cube’s son), and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, it’s clearly much more than your average heist film. Plenty of movies tell stories about cops and criminals. The ones that stand the test of time (The Godfather, Heat, The Departed) benefit from strong lead actors who lend their characters depth and intensity.
Of course, the filmmakers who produce these types of movies play a key role in determining who stars in them. While the actors deliver impressive performances, it’s up to the producers, directors, and the related behind-the-scenes specialists to cast them in the first place. For a film to succeed, the filmmakers need to make smart decisions during both the pre-production and production phases.
Den of Thieves will likely earn a place among the many other great heist films that have come before it. The following points illustrate why.
The Filmmakers Cared About This Project
Walk into any movie theater these days, and the odds are good that the vast majority of the films being shown are based on popular existing properties. They’re adaptations of best-selling novels, sequels to successful movies, adaptations of comic books, reboots of popular franchises, etc.
It’s easy to understand why this is the case. Making a movie is expensive. Studios need to ensure that they’re going to attract enough viewers to make a profit or at least break even. That’s why they greenlight movies with existing audiences. Someone who is a fan of a popular comic book series will likely pay money to see a film adaptation of it.
That’s one of the reasons why Den of Thieves is unique. It’s not based on a major franchise or property. Oftentimes, these types of films can’t attract major stars because the studios simply can’t justify the budget.
Den of Thieves, however, features an impressive cast because the people who developed this project cared enough about it to ensure it was worth the time and effort of all involved. The movie has been in development for over a decade now.
The Director Has the Ideal Experience
Den of Thieves is directed by Christian Gudegast. This is the first film for which he served as a director. Previously, he has written movies like A Man Apart and London Has Fallen.
Writers often make ideal directors. Many filmmakers lack strong storytelling abilities. They may know how to put beautiful images on the screen, orchestrate impressive set pieces, or film thrilling individual scenes, but they can’t bring all the elements together to tell a story that audiences will remember long after they have left the theater.
That’s not a problem when writers direct films. They have spent years learning the essentials of character development, story beats, and thematic relevance. They understand what makes a story work. Thus, they’re able to direct pictures that audiences remember.
Hiring Christian Gudegast to direct Den of Thieves was a smart move. It’s the kind of decision that proves the filmmakers behind this project were interested in telling a strong character-driven story.
The Film Doesn’t Provide Easy Answers
Crime movies that ultimately stand the test of time also tend to explore the lives of criminals without judgment. They may not condone illegal behavior, but at the same time they don’t preach to the audience.
That’s risky. Most people don’t want to give criminals any sympathy. The average person has been conditioned to hate those who break the law. Portraying criminals as real people with genuine depth is a difficult balancing act for filmmakers. They must be honest about the consequences of this kind of behavior, while also showing viewers an authentic depiction of a lifestyle that most people will never experience.
Films that moralize and preach typically don’t make a major impression on audiences. Again, most people have spent their entire lives learning that criminal behavior is wrong. They don’t need another film telling them what they already know. Instead, they need a morally complex film that doesn’t offer easy answers.
While this type of movie is difficult to make, the filmmakers who develop these projects usually aren’t the kinds of people who care solely about taking the easy route. They want to entertain audiences, but they also want to challenge them.
Den of Thieves is much more than your basic cops and robbers film. It’s an exploration of the criminal underground and the dedicated law enforcement professionals who strive to bring criminals to justice. This is murky territory. But it’s also the kind of territory that results in strong, unforgettable movies.