Sandy Kenyon reviews 'Den of Thieves,' '12 Strong'

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Rapper 50 Cent and the son of Ice Cube, Oshea Jackson Jr., are two in a crew of bank robbers in Los Angeles in "Den of Thieves."

We are in the middle of dead zone between the release of films competing for Oscar's attention and blockbusters like "Black Panther," which is less than a month away. All this makes for a couple of mediocre movies hitting theaters this weekend.

Rapper 50 Cent and the son of Ice Cube, Oshea Jackson Jr., are two in a crew of bank robbers in Los Angeles in "Den of Thieves," but their fans shouldn't get too excited:

The movie, which lasts two and a half hours, jumps back and forth between robbers planning to steal a fortune from the U.S. Federal Reserve in LA (the "only bank that's never been robbed") and a group of local police officers determined to stop them. They are cops who pride themselves on being as unconventional as their leader, Big Nick.

"You know what this means?" he asks, pointing to a tattoo on his arm. "It means I am a member of a gang. Only we have badges."

Serviceable is a word that comes to mind when thinking about Gerard Butler's performance, in a role similar to the world-weary detectives that Russell Crowe has played better.

"Den of Thieves" drew cheers at a screening I attended, but keep in mind, those folks were watching the movie for free.

"12 Strong," meanwhile, is about the first soldiers to see action after 9/11. Their story isn't well known because it remained classified for years, as they fought alongside Afghan tribesmen on horses.

Recognition for them comes in a new film that Michael Shannon and Michael Pena are in, based on a book that I suspect is a lot more interesting than the generic movie that stars Chris Hemsworth. He made me miss Bradley Cooper, who was an 'American Sniper' in a film that offered true insight as opposed to rah-rah patriotism and battles that last forever.

It is a story worth telling, but is it worth your time and money at the box office? Think of both movies as day-old bread, and ask yourself if you want to get that stale taste in your mouth. It really depends on how much you need to eat bread right now.
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