5 things to know about ‘DEN OF THIEVES’

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Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Heist films are a wildly popular genre. The stakes are raised for drama to collide spectacularly with an explosive powder keg lit by action. HEAT, SEXY BEAST, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, THE TOWN are a few of those who’ve raised the bar in terms of how taut and entertaining this subset of cinema can be. Writer-turned-director Christian Gudegast’s DEN OF THIEVES hopes to cement itself alongside others of its ilk.

In the film, “Big Nick” (Gerard Butler) and his crew of “Regulators” from the Major Crimes Unit of the LA Sheriff’s Department are on the hunt to nab a bank-robbin’ criminal gang, nicknamed “Outlaws,” before they pull off the biggest heist of the century at the Federal Reserve. Those delightful band of “merry men,” led by icy Ray Merriman (Pablo Schrieber) include family man Enson Levoux (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) and driver Donnie Wilson (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.).

At the film’s recent Los Angeles press conference, the affable talented force behind this character-driven heist picture let slip a few fun facts about the making of.

5. DEN OF THIEVES took 6 years to make it to the big screen. Despite its cast of bankable stars, and with viable genre-marketing in their favor, the film took a surprising amount of time to gestate before its January 19th release – 6 years to be exact. Gudegast explained, “It’s a function of getting movies made in the studio system. It was at Relativity for a while – and Relativity had some issues. There’s not really one reason. It had three different homes before it was where it is now. Me being a first-timer, there were a lot of hurdles. It’s an expensive movie for the genre and it was very ambitious. Because everybody stuck with it, proves it was all heart and passion.”

4. They toured the real Federal Reserve to get the layout correct. Gudegast stated, “I went to the Federal Reserve three times. The producer, Tucker Tooley, and I went twice and I took Gerry there once. Of course, you can’t photograph it. You have to commit it to memory. But the environment down there is breathtaking. It’s wild. We tried to reproduce it to the best of our ability.”

3. The guys did all their own stunts. Even though you might think they could cheat some of the stuntwork, what with the “Outlaws” cloaked in masks and heavy gear, the actors opted to do the work themselves. Gudegast commended his cast, having “trained their asses off. The whole point of it was these guys get into the flow of the character, so by the time we were shooting, they were all completely in it. Pablo fell on his head and almost broke his neck.” Schreiber said, “We had a military trainer that had a special forces background and he whipped us into shape. It was a very efficient team that every time you saw them move, they looked like they had a serious special forces background.” Butler said his band of “Regulators” were, “trained by undercover policemen. We were very much schooled in their manner of style, shooting and stance. There’s a lot of subtle differences.”

Evan Jones, Pablo Schreiber, 50 Cent, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. in DEN OF THIEVES. Courtesy of STX Entertainment.

2. O’Shea Jackson Jr. spent his 26th birthday getting shot at. The night they shot the armored car heist sequence, Jackson Jr. was celebrating his 26th birthday. He teased, “I spent my birthday, in the rain, in an armored car getting shot at, turning 26. It was great.” While Gudegast brought him a cake, he also got a fruit basket, which prompted him to say the best response ever at a press conference, “Everybody likes Edible Arrangements!”

1. DEN OF THIEVES’ ending is left open for a sequel. That said, a few of the dudes are lobbying for a prequel instead. Furthering the case for Schreiber’s suggestion they should do a prequel, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson said, “I’ll start my talk with Tucker Tooley. I don’t know where it goes now…”

DEN OF THIEVES opens on January 19. Go here for our review.

Header photo: Gerard Butler stars in Den of Thieves. Courtesy of STX Entertainment.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.