Dipshit Heat: the failure to reboot, rip off or pay tribute
Den of Thieves is a 2018 movie that was written and directed by a deranged person named Christian Gudegast, which was brought to my attention by this episode of David James Keaton and J. David Osborne's Almost Good podcast. It's not a successful movie and it's even a less successful imitation of the movie it's trying to rip off, Michael Mann's contemporary classic Heat.
Now that I've shared why I believe Den of Thieves is a terrible film on its own, I'd like to examine how it failed at even following the blueprint of a cinema classic. How it's so far up its own ass that it starts as an homage and veers into a tone deaf, ultra bro, borderline psychopathic mess. This is going to be a work in progress, by the way. So if you noticed other failures, add them in the comments and I'll put them in the article with a credit. I want this to be the ultimate written breakdown for Den of Thieves/Dipshit Heat online.
Of course, there will be spoilers.
An elite Los Angeles cop and a career criminal are introduced to one another through an armed robbed gone wrong. They're more alike than different, gain respect for one another throughout the movie but their respective unwillingness to compromise drive them to a final, lethal confrontation.
An elite Los Angeles cop and a career criminal are introduced to one another through an armed robbed gone wrong. They're more alike than different, but taunt each other like horny teenagers jockeying for a hot girl's attention throughout the movie and their respective unwillingness to compromise drive them to a final, lethal confrontation after which the cop may or may not have gained respect for the criminal he just gunned down like a dog.
Both movies are about two similar men who are on opposite sides of the law. What makes Heat so compelling is that Vincent Hanna and Neil McCauley are two dedicated, obsessive professionals who everybody in between turns either to be a liability or collateral damage. It's a movie about the cost of obsession and excellence, more than it's a movie about freakin' bank heists. You'll notice the heist at the end is not that clever. It's simple and pretty sloppy.
Dipshit Heat is also about two men on opposite sides of the law. The problem is that the obsessive dedication is completely absent from the movie. It doesn't spend any time building its characters, you just have to take for granted because they lift weights and bully anyone they perceive to be weaker. The policeman Nick O'Brien is particularly bad. He looks puffy, swollen and grimy like he didn't take a fucking shower in days. He's supposed to be badass, but no one wants to identify with a puffy, stinky middle-aged badass who gets of on scaring his ex-wife's friends.
The missing piece in Dipshit Heat is that the movie doesn't spent any time explaining who the characters are and why you should care about them, while Heat spends two hours building that up. It actually does after the movie is over and the bad guy dies. Because there will unfortunately be a Dipshit Heat 2.
The Lifted Scenes
There are so many lifted scenes and stand-ins in Dipshit Heat, but let's concentrate on a major one: the armored truck robbery at the beginning.
Neil McCauley puts together a crew of people he trusts (with an extra man he needed to hire on the fly) to rob an armored car. The robbery is well-organized, timed and goes exactly as planned until the hired help Waingro gets too wired on adrenaline and shoots a security guard who couldn't hear his instructions. The crew makes it out without a scratch, but attract the titular police heat they're not going to shake for the rest of the movie.
Ray Merrimen puts together a crew of people he trusts (with an extra man he hired on the fly for reasons later revealed in the movie) to rob an armored car. The robbery is well-organized, timed and goes exactly at planned until an armed guard reaches for his gun, triggering a spectacular and lethal shooting that will make casualties on each sides. The crew makes it out with one less member and attract police heat they're not going to shake for the rest of the movie.
The opening robbery in Heat was meant to be an inciting incident, sure. But it was also meant to be exposition for Neil McCauley. There's two aspects to is: the educated minutiae with which he's pulling off heists and the mistake he's made by hiring Waingro to do the job. It illustrates the dual nature of a man who's become so efficient at being a criminal. He needs to plan for every detail and anticipate every possible outcome in violent and urgent circumstances.
And the opening robbery in Dipshit Heat was meant to be an inciting incident and not much else. It tries to one up Heat in terms of scale and spectacular factor by having a lethal shootout right away, but it doesn't meant me shit because we don't know the characters. In Heat, the epic shootout is terrifying because we know the characters and we're startled at the brutality of their confrontation, but a shootout of people you don't know is just a shootout, like on the news. Do you really care if people you don't know killed one another?
The Collateral Damage Aspect
This is the glue that holds the movie together. Vincent Hanna is trying to make a life for himself outside of work with his wife and stepdaughter, but is viscerally pulled towards the case. Life and the job can't coexist. Same for Neil McCauley, who never had a life outside the jobs he pulled, but desires to have one now that he's getting older and attracted too much Heat from the police. But the code of conduct he's internalized "don't get tied up into something you couldn't walk away from in 30 seconds if the heat's around the corner" will override just abotu any desire.
This is bizarre. There's one scene where Nick O'Brien sneaks inside how own house to avoid talking to his wife. Then it's not really a factor until the end where O'Brien visits his daughter in school, in an inexplicably weepy and cliché scene. These scenes could've very well be skipped since he looks like a stinky bachelor. Ray Merrimen doesn't have a family. He hangs around his crew member Enson Levoux's family because he has a house they have for HQ and there are women in the background during the Beni Hana scene, but there's no indication he's interested in anything else than robbing banks.
The characters in Heat are too driven and dedicated to have a life. They would've been professional athletes or bank executives, it would've been the same. Vincent Hanna and Neil McCauley are relatable. They are even desirable. While Heat is a three hours downfall into their maniacal pursuits, they are nonetheless examples of excellence and that's why they're riveting characters. They have both drive for excellence and relatable desires.
This is where Dipshit Heat gets completely off the rails. Whoever's not in O'Brien or Merrimen's crew is a victim to be exploited. O'Brien wants his wife by his side, but doesn't hesitate to antagonize her in front of her friends to assert his dominance. Merrimen, Levoux and his friends terrorize Levoux's daughter's prom date for the heck of it. Donnie Wilson (the movie's most balanced character) is bullied from start to finish by two men who think he's weak. The characters have no interest outside of the heist and neither do we. Too bad the heist is just 45 minutes of a two and a half hours movie and that you're supposed to root for the criminals to make it.
Have you watched the movies? Did you notice other failures from Den of Thieves to live up to Heat? Hit me up either here or on Facebook! We'll add them to the piece.