Heist movies create the perfect blend of brains and brawn where characters set out to achieve the American Dream after devising the perfect modus operandi. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. But what truly draws to these movies is the thrill that comes with the high stakes of the heists and the subtle intricacies that are dropped throughout their runtime. ‘Den of Thieves‘ is another enthralling heist thriller that involves top-shelf actors, slam-bang action, and a whole lot of twists. Speaking of the twists, if you’re looking for an explanation for its storyline, we have you covered.
Merrimen’s Preparations for The Heist
The core premise of ‘Den of Thieves’ revolves around a heist wherein a team of robbers, comprising former Marines, attempts to rob the Federal Reserve. While they are at it, Detective Nick (Gerard Butler), keeps a close eye on them to catch them in action. So before we dive into the intricacies of the heist, let’s first try to understand all the planning that takes place right before it.
In the opening scene of the movie, the team of robbers, led by former Marine, Ray Merrimen, can be seen in a violent showdown against cops while they attempt to hijack an armored truck. It is later revealed that this truck was empty. Later in the movie, after monitoring Merrimen and his team for a while, Nick uncovers a CCTV footage which reveals that a local bartender named Donnie could potentially be involved with them. After being kidnapped for interrogation, Donnie reveals that he was hired by Merrimen as a driver to pull off the robbery of a rave at a stadium. Donnie gets away by claiming that Merrimen never really reveals much to him.
Before pulling off the heist on the Federal Reserve, there is another scene where Donnie picks up the job of a deliveryman and delivers Chinese food to some Federal Reserve employees. After handing them their food orders, he heads to the washroom and hides one of the food packages there. Post this, Merrimen and his crew also realize that Donnie was previously interrogated by the cops and when they confront him, Donnie assures them that he told the cops nothing. Merrimen then asks him to tell the cops all about the time of the heist and later, when Nick sleeps with Merrimen’s stripper wife, she tells him about its location.
These four particular details—the empty armored truck, the rave robbery, the revelations of the time and location to Nick, and Donnie’s food package—later become the most crucial elements of the Federal Reserve heist plan.
The Heist, Explained
So here’s how the heist goes down. After knowing that Merrimen’s crew will be robbing a local commercial bank, Nick and his men arrive at the location and wait for the right moment to catch them. Meanwhile, inside the back, Merrimen wastes no time and fakes the shooting of a hostage to force the cops to comply with his demands (10$ million of cash and a helicopter). Then they ask the manager of the bank to open the vault and set off a huge explosion.
The cops outside the bank assume that the explosion came off from the robbers trying to blow up the bank’s vault. However, knowing that they are no ordinary robbers, Nick gets suspicious and heads right inside the bank with his men right behind him. This is when they discover a huge hole near the washroom of the commercial bank where the bomb was set off. Using this hole, the robbers escaped into the sewer below and got right out of there. This part of their plan was only for distracting Nick and his men so that they could easily pull off their Federal Reserve heist plan.
Using the previously hijacked armored truck, cash from the rave robbery, and a fake call to the Federal Reserve claiming that there’s a drop from a Savings Bank, Levi (50 Cent) and Merrimen enter the Reserve Federal disguised as employees of the bank. They carry two cash dollies, one of which, has Donnie hiding inside. After they hand over the cash dollies for shredding, Bosco makes some tweaks in the electrical system of the Reserve Federal office and they go on a temporary brown-out. This is when Donnie comes out of his hiding place in the room where all the old unregistered (later-to-be-shredded) cash is being kept. Using an electromagnetic pulse device, he temporarily damages the CCTV camera in the room, collects the unregistered cash in his bag, and then dumps it in the refuse box.
He then escapes into one of the air ducts, comes out into the washroom, and uses his previously hidden food delivery package to deliver Chinese food to the employees. When he leaves the building, the security guy at the lobby becomes a little suspicious when he discovers that Donnie’s name is not checked in. But knowing that he regularly comes there, he just dismisses it and lets him leave.
The Ending: Donnie’s Mastermind Plan
The refuse box is later dispatched into garbage collecting trucks that remove shredding bills. Bosco hijacks one of the trucks and collects their heist money from it. However, Donnie later gets caught by Nick’s team and he tells them all about Merrimen’s location. In the final moments, a hefty shootout ensues between Merrimen’s team and Nick’s force, and by the time it ends, Levi, Bosco, and even Merrimen are all shot dead. Merrimen who earlier promised Nick that he’ll never wear the cuffs again dies in his own glory after getting shot while Levi seems to think about his family before taking his last breath.
When Nick later returns to his car, he realizes that Donnie has escaped, and when he checks Merrimen’s truck, he only finds bags full of shredded money in it. Nick later revisits the bar from the opening scene of the movie where he first met Donnie and asks the owner about him. The owner tells him that he quit his job a while ago. Nick then notices that several employees from the Federal Reserve show up at the bar because it is located very close to it. He also recalls Donnie’s words: “I’m in complete control of my environment, and people don’t even know.”
A flashback then reveals that the heist was Donnie’s idea. Knowing that he could not pull it off all by himself, he asked the Marines for help. Over the years, while he worked at the bar where the Federal Reserve Employees would often show up, he gathered bits and pieces of information about the Federal Reserve building and noted all of it down on tissues. In one of the early scenes of the movies, Levi asks Merrimen where he gets all of his information from. Merrimen simply says that he gets it from credible sources. Well, the ending of the movies explains that Merrimen got all of his information from Donnie. So all this while, Merrimen just had this flawed sense of leadership over the group while Donnie was controlling them from the sidelines.
Who is the Guy in the Ending Scene?
In the closing scene of the movie, Donnie—almost unrecognizable now—can be seen bartending at a new bar in London. While he’s at it, several employees and his own team of specialists can be seen sitting at a table nearby. One of them also includes the truck drivers who had previously collected the shredded and heist money from the Federal Reserve. This explains that the truck which was earlier hijacked by Bosco was only used as a pawn and had the shredded currency. That’s why bags of the shredded currency were later found in Merrimen’s car. Meanwhile, there was another truck being driven another one of Donnie’s men, which contained the real heist money.
Donnie had later sealed off the money in tires and delivered it to himself. All of this also goes back to the scene where Merrimen suspects Donnie after he is interrogated by the cops. In that scene, Donnie assures Merrimen by claiming that he is the last person who would rat them out. The ending makes it pretty evident that since it was his plan altogether, he would indeed be the last person to ditch them.
At the London bar, a rich businessman approaches Donnie. Donnie instantly strikes up a conversation, asking him about his diamond exchange business. This scene shows how Donnie is now planning another big heist, this time at the nearby diamond exchange business. An yet again, Donnie is in complete control of his environment and absolutely no one is suspicious about it.
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