Saturday, 17 February 2018

Enter the Good-Guy Wild Boi Woodwose - FQ - Book 6 Canto 4

Nice and neat, this Canto gets to the point and gets out.

We open with a classic Spencerian ship-metaphor verse illustrating how bad things are for Calepine;

"Now farre from harbour likely to be lost,"

I don't know what happened to Edmund on that ship but it must have been traumatising. If he'd stayind out there we might have ended up with Englands first Sea-Poet.

Luckily for Calepine, and fans of Gilgamesh/Endinku buddy-dramas, these woods home a 'salvage man' who 'Drawne with that Ladies loud and piteous shright' runs towards the sound and finds Turpine trying to murder Calepine, a sight so horrid that;

"The salvage man, that never till this houre
Did taste of pittie, neither gentlesse knew,
Seeing his sharpe assault and cruell stoure
Was much emmoved at his perils vew,
That even his ruder hart began to rew,
And feele compassion of his evil plight,"

The woodwosy guy has no clothes or tools but, for some mysterious reason, is invulnerable to harm due to 'Magicke leare.'. No explanation in the notes, hopefully something will come up later.

"He stayed not to advize, which way were best
His foe t'assayle, or how himselfe to gard,
But with fierce fury and with force infest
Unpon him ran;"

Yeah boi! Turpine jabs him right in the chest with his spear, but cannot harm him.

"With that the wyld man more enraged grew,
Like to a Tygre that hath mist his pray,
And with mad mood again upon him flew,"

He grabs the sheild and they wrestle for it;

And nearly pulls Turpine off his horse, until Turpine runs for it. Our wyld boi chases after him and Turpine;

"Gan cry aloud with horrible affright,
And shrieked out, a thing uncomely for a knight."

Eventually Wild-Man Martin Riggs gets tired of chasing and returns to Calepine and Serena, he finds them both bleeding and Serena terrified of him, because hes a naked invulnerable wild dude.

"But the wyld ma, contrarie to her feare,
Came to her creeping like a fawning hound"

Wildy has no language;

"But a soft murmure, and confused sound
Of senselesse words, which nature did him teach,
T'expresse his passions, which his reason did empeach."

On seeing the 'streames of purple blood' flowing from Calpine he makes 'great mone after his salvage mood'.

And guess what he does next?

He stops the bleeding.

"And running streight into the thickest wood,
A certain herbe from thence unto him brought,
Whose vertue he by use well understood:
The juyce whereof into his wound he wrought,
And stopt the bleeding strait, ere he it staunced thought."

I think the reason I like this cano so much is, not only the bleeding thing, but this might be one of Spencers few low-status heroes (except maybe Glauce, Britomarts nurse) and its nice to seem something that doesn't quietly outrage my 21stC democratic instincts with Spensers Beauty=Good, Status=Good paradigm. Plus I really like it when mis-matched guys team up.

(Its looking like Serena has internal bleeding?)

From later;

"But that same Ladies hurst no herbe he found,
Which could redresse, for it was inwardly unsound."

He then takes Calepine and Serena off to chill in his hollow glade where they sleep on grass and are vegetarians;

"For their bad Stuard neither ploug'd nor sowed,
Ne fed on flesh, ne ever of wyld beast
Did taste the bloud, obaying natures first beheast."

This goes on for an indeterminate amount of time until the mid-point of the Canto is reached and we know its time for a new element to be introduced. Calepine is out wandering alone 'To take the ayre, and heare the thrushes song,' WHEN HE SEES;

"A cruell Beare, the which an infant bore
Betwixt his bloodie jawes, besprinckles all with gore."

Calepine is still a knight goddamnit so he races off to save the baby. He is not wearing his 'heavy armes' and has become so used to their weight that;

"Now wanting them he felt himselfe so light,
That like an Hauke, which feeling her selfe freed
From bels and jesses, which did let her flight,
Him seem'd his feet did fly, and in their speed delight."

He overtakes the bear, which drops the baby to fight him;

"But the bold knight no whit thereat dismayd,
But catching up in hand a ragged stone,
Which lay thereby (so fortune him did ayde)
Upon him ran, and thrust it all attone
Into his gaping throte, that made him grone
And grasp for breath, that he nigh choked was,
Being unable to digest that bone;"

The bear gets a pretty cool death-verse, full of brast bowels and 'wanting breath', but so much for the Bear, now Calepine has a baby to look after, and he's now lost in the forest;

"He could no path nor tract of foot descry,
Ne by inquirie lerne, nor ghesse by ayme.
For nought but woods and forrests farre and nye,
That all about did close the compasse of his eye."

So he wanders around for ages with the baby crying, which drives him nuts, until he happens to wander out of the forests edge, and hears someone else, a lady, crying. Again we get an interesting piece of verse about the necessity of speaking your harm;

"Nathlesse (quoth he) if need doe not you bynde,
Doe it deisclose, to ease your grieved spright:
Oftimes it haps, that sorrowes of the mynd
Find remedie unsought, which seeking cannot fynd."

This is Matilde, her husband Sir Bruin is the local lord. He beat up a 'Gyant' called Cormoraunt (a name apparenly used after the sea-bird to describe greedy people). He scared the gyant of but, oh no, they can't have children and they are scared once Bruin gets old the Gyant will come back. And by we, she means her, because her husband has blamed her & kicked her out. And wouldn;t you know it, Calepine just happens to have this guarunteed untraceable baby _right here_, who's owners probably aren't even missing it.

Then we get another very un-Spencerian, somewhat democratic moment;

"If that the cause of this your languishment
Be lacke of children, to supply your place,
Low how good fortuen doth to you present
This litle babe, of sweete and lovely face,
And spotlesse spirit, in which ye may enchace
What ever formes ye list thereto apply,
Being now soft and fit them to embrace;
Whether ye list him traine in chevalry,
Or nourlse up in lore of learn'd Philosophy.

And certes it hath oftentimes bene seeme,
That of the like, whose linage was unknowne,
More brave and noble knight have raysed beene,
As their victorious deedes have often showen,
Being with fame through many Nations blowed,
Then those, which have been dandled in the lap.
Therefore some thought, that those brave imps were sowen
Here by the Gods, and fed with heavenly sap,
That made them grow so high t'all honourable hap."

Nurture over nature? Noble blood not even being that important? Edmund what has happened to you?

So she takes the baby. She offers Calepine help but he doesn't want it;

"Vowing, that never he in bed againe
His limbes would rest, ne lig in ease embost,
Till that his Ladies sight he mote attaine,
Or understand, that she in saftie did remaine."

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Stolen Skin of Sun

This is a half-written plan for a fairy-tale-esqe adventure, or maybe a mini-game. I just started scrawling this down freehand in an empty pad, apropos of nothing, and stopped when I got to the middle bit, or the end of the first act.

I had the idea that the PC's could all be women (an idea that seems to re-occur to me with some regularity), they would be the friends and handmaids of the Princess in question and, as in all good child-adventure films, the only people who know what they are doing. But it could also work with the standard band of vagabond adventurers who have strolled into town.

If they were the Princesses friends then;

Fighter = Kitchen Maid
Specialist/Thief = Handmaid, or possibly Young Lady, if high Stealth.
Cleric = Virtuous Lady
Magic User = Bookish or Peculiar Lady


The skin of Princess Sun has been stolen!

She was found, still alive, in her bed a few hours ago. At this moment she floats, skinless, in a bath of milk and honey, with new fresh milk and new fresh honey being brought every hour and drizzled all over her horrible body.

The sticky, sweet, blood-stained milk is brought out at the same time.

Only a handful of the toughest old Maids can even look at her to perform this duty, so horrible is the sight. Her mother, the Queen was dragged out screaming and is still in a swoon.

The halls of the castle are full of her low moans.

It is a terrible situation. The Princess herself is barely able to speak but seems to have no idea what happened.

Old King Gloom calls for aid! Someone must find the skin of the Princess and return it to her to be sewn on.

Maybe you?



·        A pair of bloodstained golden scissors were found on the Princesses silk sheets.
·        The Princesses pet monkey has also been stolen from its silver cage.
·        Children, churls and alcoholics, whisper that The Master Thief was seen last night, standing in the town square, staring at the tower where the Princess lay.
·        The Witch of the Black Woods (who cannot be named) lives within reach. She never seemed to have any hatred for Princess Sun, but stealing a Maidens skin seems like exactly the kind of thing she would do.
·        In Addition: Three different gentlemen had all recently proposed marriage to the Princess, and been denied. They are;
o   Lord Blue Beard. A huge, handsome, wealthy, multiply-married (they died) local lord.
o   The Grand Vizier. An wealthy and mysterious potentate from far away. He travelled with camels laden with gold and offered a huge dowry.
o   Brave Prince Brawn. A very strong, very big, very confident, very loud, red-faced leader of the Knights of Iron.



The Scissors and the Seamstress

One person in the Castle is an expert in scissors - Mistress Quick, the Royal Seamstress.
·        She is in her parlour.
·        Anyone listening can hear her crying.
·        And hear her say "Oh my Love! Oh, my scissors! Oh, my Love"
·        If they knock, they will hear a small 'click' before the door is opened.

·        Mistress Quick is an older lady, fine, plump and unmarried, with very fast hands.
·        She carries a big pin-cushion full of golden needles, some fine green gems on rings, and a golden locket at her neck.
·        If they ask about the scissors she starts crying again.
·        Those ARE her scissors.
·        She says they were kept safely in a locked ebony box. No-one should have been able to get them.

At this stage, Miss Cheek, the Maid, bursts in and starts cleaning and knocking things over.
·        She has a red face.
·        The sound of bottles clinking comes from her skirts.
·        She gives the PC's a wink.
·        "Oh Miss Cheek. Must You?"
·        "Oh!"
·        The hand of Mistress Quick goes to her locket. She falls on the bed.
·        "Oh the Tragedy of it, so never know LOVE...."
·        "Young women today only care about pretty dresses and gender equality, where are the true romantics?"

·        Beat the truth out of Mistress Quick, she's not that tough.
·        Bribe Miss Cheek with booze (she is severely alcoholic).
·        If female, convince Mistress Quick you are a true romantic.
·        Steal or grab the locket.

The Truth;
The picture in the locket is of the missing monkey.
"It wasn't his fault!"
"Oh! He would say such wonderful things to me!"
"The Dreams we shared!"
"We were to be married."
"He was an enchanted Prince!"
"No-one would have understood!"
"Yes, he had access to my room."
"I'm sure he is a victim of the Witch of the Black Woods (who must not be named), or.. The Master Thief."

If King Gloom discovers that Mistress Quick has been intimate with a monkey she will be thrown in the cells.

The Monkey in the Silver Cage

·        King Gloom thinks the Monkey was a Birthday gift from Lord Long, his brother, the Uncle of the Princess.
·        Lord Long says he thought the monkey must have been a gift from Duchess Puss, the cat-obsessed Aunt.
·        Duchess Puss says _she_ thought the monkey was a gift from the King (and a poor one too, a kitty cat would have been much nicer).

The Master Thief

How do you know it was.. The Master Thief?
·        He wore a black hat with a wide brim.
·        He had a ragged black cloak.
·        He had long, long legs, with pointed toes.
·        He carried a sack of mysterious things.
·        When he saw me see him in the moonlight, he looked right at me, and gave me a tip of his hat. Then disappeared.
·        And behind him, he left an orange peel.

What did he look like?
·        He wore a mask.
·        But he had a cunning look.

What was his build?
·        He wore a cloak, but his legs were long.

What colour was he?
·        He was neither too dark, nor too light.
·        Not cream, nor wan.
·        And not a foreign fellow, but certainly not a local.

How to Catch The Master Thief.
Anyone can tell you; No-one can catch The Master Thief, he can steal what he wants and go where he likes.
BUT - there are three things he loves more than anything else;
·        Stealing things that are nailed down.
·        Selling things to those who have too many of them already.
·        Oranges - for he leaves orange peels wherever he goes, that is how you can tell he has been near.

IF the PC's
·        Nail down something valuable.
·        Acquire too many of a common object (at least fifty).
·        And possess oranges.
They will encounter The Master Thief.

Encountering The Master Thief
·        A child, woman, nun, gaunt old man, or someone they know well, will approach them in an unexpected way and offer them something for sale, it only costs a shilling.
·        It is in this box.
·        If the PC has a particular object they are after, they can see it in the box.
·        If not, ask (as the Referee) what the character most desires, they see that in the box.
·        If they pay the shilling this person runs away as fast as a shadow, spilling wig and disguise as they go.
o   If the PC catches them, it is only a pig dressed up as a person (you may keep the pig, they will be a loyal friend), or a reflection of The Master Thief in a mirror they run into and break.
·        In the box is a single one of the mundane object they have collected.

The Nailed-Down-Thing will have either disappeared, leaving only the nails, or;
·        They will notice a large number of flies landing on it.
·        Then a dog licking it.
o   It has been replaced with a cake of equivalent size and exquisite design.
o   The cake is delicious.

The oranges, wherever they are and however they are guarded, are all eaten, leaving only peels.

But in the midst of the peels is a napkin marked with ink.

The first person to open the napkin reads this;

"A skin for a skin
All ripe together
In summer weather
Morns that pass by
Fair eves that fly
Come buy, come buy
Buy a skin from Goblin Men
Buy a skin down in the glen
Come buy, come buy"

·        And a map to the Goblin Market, which fades as soon as it is seen.
·        The napkin was written in disappearing ink.
·        Anyone who saw the napkin can now remember the way to the Goblin Market.

Anyone who encountered The Master Thief now realises that all of their personal valuables are gone, their clothes have been replaced with paper equivalents and their shoes are now cheap, worn through, the wrong size, and not their shoes.

The Witch of the Black Woods (Who Cannot Be Named)

·        She lives in a cottage of food in the Black Woods.
·        No-one who goes there has ever returned.
·        Her name is 'Mistress Sertsim' but if anyone says it out-loud, she hears it immediately and curses them straight away. From that day on, if they ever hold two separate objects free in their hands, they will both come alive and fight each other till one of them is smashed to bits.
·        From that day forward you can only pick up one thing at a time.
·        She turns people into pigs.
·        She eats children.

Going To Her House
·        The path is made of cool white stones in the black wood.
·        Crows watch you from the trees.
·        Silver children appear.
·        They are ghosts.
·        They seem terribly afraid.
·        They do not understand they are dead.
·        They are running away from something, they shout "she will catch me!"

The House of the Witch of the Black Woods (Who Cannot be Named)
·        Walls of dripping beef.
·        The roof tiled in Cornish pasties.
·        Windows of pale, polished fat from slices of giant Black Puddings.
·        The gutters are soggy, dripping baguettes.
·        The door is a huge pizza with a pineapple doorknob.
·        It is surrounded by the skulls of children on black poles.
o   (Some still have hair and skin.)
o   They clack when you come near.

·        A big black cooking pot.
·        Stuffed moles, voles, rats and cats, with gold buttons for eyes.
·        They are rushing around sewing clothes for a young woman.
·        An old crow croaks at you and tells you to go away;
·        "The Mistress is out!"
·        "Come back later, for dinner."
Where is she?
·        "She has flown to the Goblin Market to buy a new set of clothes."
·        (All the creatures laugh at this.)

If you are cunning, perhaps you can persuade the Crow to tell you the way;
"Walk north till noon.
Then west is best.
In the Evening - you'll hear grieving, follow that.
Then watch the sky for stars.
Follow the seventh star to appear.
Close your eyes.
Sing; 'All ripe together
In summer weather
Morns that pass by
Fair eyes that fly
Come buy, come buy'

And then you are there.

 Lord Blue Beard

·        In the Dutchy of Lord Blue Beard, everyone seems sad.
o   Except the butcher, who is manic-happy, and grins.
o   Slabs of meat are dripping in his window.
·        The pigs are eating something red.
·        The girls are all dressed as boys, with hair cut short.
·        There is old confetti clogging the gutters.

When you reach his old, rambling castle, an ancient Butler opens the door.
·        If you are a young lady, he asks; "Are you here to be married?"
·        Lord Blue Beard left quite suddenly.
·        He is going to fetch a dowry for his bride-to-be - Princess Sun.
·        (He WILL marry Princess Sun.)
·        He went north, in a carriage with silver bells..

The Grand Vizier

The Grand Vizier didn't seem that upset by the refusal of Princess Sun.
·        He left a few days ago.
·        He travels quite slowly, because his camels are laden with gold.
·        And guards wilding huge scimitars walk alongside the camels to guard them.
·        He stays every night at an Inn.
·        (He refuses to sleep outside.)
·        He stayed last at The Golden Thatch, on the north side of town.

The Golden Thatch
·        The innkeeper is very pleased.
·        He has new clothes, new shoes, a fine hat and workmen are adding a gazebo to the Inn.
·        “Some say gazeebos can be dangerous, but I have never seen one harm a man.
·        He has nothing bad to say about the Grand Vizier.
·        "That man is rich enough to buy anything."
·        "But who can buy what cannot be bought? That's what I said."
·        "He went north, I don't know why."
·        "He won't be travelling fast."
·        "I recommended the Ammonite Inn, on the forests edge."

The Ammonite Inn
·        The Inn has a roof of blue-grey slate.
·        The stone of the walls has fossilised ammonites in it.
·        And the sign is that of an ammonite.
·        The innkeeper is terse, she cleans her glasses and says little.
·        "That man stayed here, only two nights ago."
·        "He paid well and asked strange questions."
·        "He wanted to buy that which cannot be bought."
·        "I send him to the only place such questions might be answered - the Black Wood Inn, between the Black Woods and the Swamp of Pain."
·        "I would recommend you do not go."

The Black Wood Inn
·        A creaking low building of black wood.
·        Damp and part flooded.
·        Crayfish scuttle across the puddles and the Gas-Frogs howl outside.
·        The Innkeeper is a giggling little man with pointed teeth, and pointed ears, and pointed eyes.
·        He will not say much, answering only in questions and puns.
·        If you ask him; "How can I buy that which cannot be bought?", he will say;
·        "All ripe together
·        In summer weather
·        Morns that pass by
·        Fair eves that fly
·        Come buy, come buy
·        "Ill tell you  for a kiss, or a riddle that I cannot solve."
·        If you provide either, he will direct you to the Goblin Market
·        "Just step into this black coracle behind the Inn, close your eyes and sleep. When you wake up you will be there."

Brave Prince Brawn

·        Prince Brawn is still practicing his jousting with his Knights outside the town.
·        You can find them by the sound of crashing and of men shouting.
·        The Knights of Iron are all big, strong, loud, red men in bright red armour.
·        Prince Brawn is the biggest and strongest and loudest and reddest of them all.
·        He is not afraid of anything.
·        Prince Brawn will decide, immediately, that he must rescue the skin of the Princess.
·        If the characters are ladies, and are attractive, charming, virtuous or any combination of the three, he will insist on following them around, getting the way, being loud and confident.
·        He will not listen to anything they say.
·        It is a notable aspect of Prince Brawn that every decision he makes is exactly wrong, not part wrong or slightly wrong, but utterly opposite wrong.
·        He has no idea this is the case.



Saturday, 10 February 2018

Den of Thieves is good (spoilers)

It has a massive split rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you are part of the intended audience then the 70-something audience rating is much more accurate.

I thought this was a somewhat-inventive film that had a lot more thought, care and attention paid to it than most of the reviewers who watched it realised.

Yes, this is about highly-ritualised hyper-masculine dudes who bleed testosterone when shot sitting in rooms and coming up with complex procedural plans to out-plan the other guys plans. And yes this is essentially porn to me. But if you like tough dudes in rooms and MEN with PLANS, and procedural crimes, then you will probably like this.


"But isn't is just a Wallmart Heat?"

Well yes. But also no.

Its more like a social-realist Heat.

Its more realistic (for a given value of 'realistic') than Heat, slightly. partly because the actors are less super-dramatically charismatic, and partly because the social milieu is more deeply filled in and makes more intuitive and direct sense.

Gnarly Fucked-Up drawn-out, beardy, continually-chewing Gerard Butler (I think he takes something either into or out of his mouth in every scene) as a cop could have walked right out of real life and into the film.  He's a mixture of bullishly unpleasant, occasionally stupid, brave, and nasty-crafty in a manner that feels very true to life.

He feels real and, like everyone in DoT, he carries the implied socioeconomic and cultural background of his pseudo-history with him. When Pablo Schreibers baddy looks up his photo online, he looks kinda lumpy and meat-headed and like a cop, or like a normal person in a bad photo. Al Pachino in that photo would have looked fly as fuck, like everyone in Heat looks fly as fuck, even in surveillance photos. Gerard is painfully out of place in the middle-class life he's built for himself, much more comfortable in is quasi-millitaristically-ritualised team/group, and when hanging out with scumbags.

Heat is set in Micheal Manns 'Thief World' where people just are thieves and are cops. They enter the story that way and leave it that way. This is a mild point in the film; Robert Dinero is meant to be a mysterious placeless lonely dude and this is part of his story, but it feels broadly true for a lot of the main cast.

No-one in DoT feels like that, everyone feels like they come from a very particular socio-economic-racial particular background.

So there are three main groups in the film, the Tough-Guy cops, the American Football Players and the Soccer Players. We only really realise the Soccer Players are a group at the end

The cops from the tough-guy Major Crimes unit all feel like ex-miltary, or the smartest or nastiest guys in their previous departments.

Gerard Butler is definitely the guy who was head of the (American) Football team, or just the guy in the team who beat up the other side, and then became a cop.

The main bad-guy gang are based around ex-soldiers and guys who knew each other from playing American Football together in High School. Pablo Schreiber, the main antagonist, pretty much bleeds green in this.  He feels so military that the moment you see him you want to either salute him, paint him grey or load and fire him, and all this is communicated though manner, bearing and attitude.

50 Cent is actually kinda good in this. His characters kept so close to naturalistic that he can pretty much play him straight as-is.

Schreiber and Cent played football together in school and served together in the millitary, everyone else in their gang did either one or another of those things too.

And they went to a school with a particular black-white mix and with, as Butlers character puts it 'a bunch of fat-assed samoans', so thats why they are always hanging out with a lot of Pacific Islanders when we go to their homes. There are soft race lines in DoT, they get crossed, but only for particular reasons.

We do get the scene where the cops look at a photo of fifty and Pablo in combat gear somewhere in the middle east and say 'they served together' but we don't really need it since we know that already, we can feel it coming off the screen whenever they are around.

And then we have the secret team, based around O'Shea Jackson Jr, who are all non-white, non-military football (soccer) players. People who skirt the edge of the criminal world, but they skirt the edge of the civilian world too, ethnically. Kind of the nicer end of the criminal spectrum, a bit like some people I knew in collage. These are the smart-but-still-shady kids from school that the other two groups would never notice 'cause they weren't alpha enough.


Some of the bad reviews say that the male performances are overblown and unrealistic.

Not, from my limited experience, the case. Big Hairy Macho dudes in those jobs and social groups do generally act like that.

The parts when people shout quasi-cliches at each other seemed more to me that the director had done their research and was bringing out the actual quasi-cliches that cops and criminals tend to spout when hanging round rather than the ones stolen from movies.

Though I grant that the difference is hard to be precise about, since the real people are also watching the movies about them and using them as behaviour-fuel, and have been, I think, ever since the gangster films of the 20's.

Most of the social performances felt to me only slightly heightened, apart from any scene Gerard Butler is in, which is about half of them, which come under the Butler reality-alteration field.


Gerard Butler has had extra Gerard Butler added to himself (literally, he gained weight for the role) and the film basically has been spam-packed with Gerard Butler (there is also a Samoa/Spam joke, which I was very pleased to get and which I suspect I might be the only person in Birkenhead to have got) - anyway - HE IS IN THIS FILM A LOT.

Gerard shoulders his way across the screen like a goddamn silverback Gorilla and your attitude to Gerard will probably end up being your attitude to the film.

He's good. A big, burly, nasty charismatic man who quasi-bullies everyone around him and is willing to do some creepy shit in pursuit of some dudes who are generally ok except that they are pretty much fine with gunning down security guards who get a bit handy, and then cops who get upset about the security guards, and then pretty much any of the civilians who get in the way in the big gunfight at the end.

There's a sub-plot about his decaying marriage which sees him totally self-destruct and which seems, right until the end, as if its going to feed into the main plot, like his wife or kid are going to get kidnapped, but nope, that was just Gerard Butler destroying his life.

There's a pretty good scene where he walks into a party where his soon-to-be-ex wife is enjoying a party with some Middle-Class types and just sprawls resentfully all over them. There's no reason for it to be in the film other than that the director couldn't control, or didn't want to control, Gerard Butler. Its a fun scene (for me) and the careful attention to class and social mis-en-scene, combined with a load of macho bullshit, is typical for the film.


I've seen people talking about how the main plot of the film is labyrinthine and doesn't make sense.

It's not that labyrinthine compared to standard hollywood fare. And it does make sense.

This is the plot;

O'Shea Jackson Jr is a quiet, clever ex-con socially connected to a bunch of people who work in the Big Main Reserve Bank. Over a long period of time he builds up a complex picture of how it works and the basic details of a complex heist.

Pablo Schreiber is a scary, competent career bank-robber who has pulled off some difficult jobs, Jackson approaches him with the idea for the heist, but Schreiber says he will be in charge.

Jackson gets himself attached to Schreibers group as an apparent low-status member. Most of the gang don't know he is the SECRET MASTERMIND.

The Schreiber gang commit some unusual crimes to get material, information and resources to gain access to the Big Central Bank. One of these goes to shit and a gunfight breaks out.

They become cop killers. This is where the film starts.

Gerard Butlers Major Crimes unit starts hunting Schreibers gang. They see Jackson is some nerd attached to the group, grab him, and try to turn him. It looks like they succeed.

Schreibers group work out something is up and it looks like they are going to kill Jackson, but they don't, instead it looks like they will try to use him to feed info to the cops. This looks dumb and Hollywood at the time, but of course Schreiber won't kill Jackson, he knows he can trust him because its his fucking heist.

So at this point, to the audience, it looks like the film is these two super-tough guys, Schreiber and Butler, doing a GAME OF WITS, with poor soft Jackson caught in the middle, being used by both sides.

Schreibers gang run a robbery of a small bank and feed Butler info to make sure he's there. It turns into a hostage situation. It's a weird turn to the film.

But that robbery is to grab money and to distract Butler.

They use the money from the bank robbery as part of an elaborate and deep cover to gain access to the Big Main Bank Reserve. The construction of this cover was the main aim of everything they did up to this point. They walk in like money delivery guys, with a bank truck, the right details, and crucially, a big fucking box of money taken from their previous robberies. The money was part of their passport to get into the big uncrackable bank.

Once inside Jackson Jr, who is hidden in the money, uses a fake brownout as cover to divert a huge amount of old money that's already had its serial numbers deleted from the system, so it doesn't go to the shredder, instead he shoves it down the trash so it goes in the trash truck in trash bags.

The gang then exits the Big Central Bank, Jackson Jr using a cover as a delivery guy which he spent ages building up. The guys at the front desk don't have his name coming in, but since literally nothing is on record as happening, and they've seen him a million times before, they let him go.

Jackson Jr is already plotting to screw over Shreiber, two dump trucks cross in the street and swap routes.

Pablo Shreiber and Fifty Cent hijack the dump truck and drive it to a safe place. They grab the bags they expect to see from the back and run for it.

Meanwhile Jackson Jr has been picked up by Gerard Butler who beats him up and chases after Shreiber. Jacksons friend calls Schrieber to ask what to do and Shreiber cuts him off, he and fifty cent will take the money for themselves.

Butler finds Shreiber in a big traffic jam, they have a big gunfight, Butler chases down Shreiber and kills him.

When they find the money bags, there's no money in them and Jackson Jr escaped from their car while they were all dicking about fighting the main guy.

Some time later Butler visits Jackson Jrs old work and sees a photo of him in a football team with almost all of the low-level individuals who did cryptic shit during the heist, the guys in the money counting room, the dump truck drivers, the guy who did IT for Schreibers team and who Shreiber fucked over.

All the people who did hollywood-convenient plot shit during the film were actually part of a conspiracy to do that stuff, a conspiracy that actually makes sense since, in order to be part of it, none of them had to do anything illegal, or even suspicious, just order chinese from a certain place for lunch, drive a dump truck a certain way, walk down a corridor a particular way.

So a film that looked like it was about two big tough guys fighting each other was actually about a nerd outmaneuving two big tough guys from a position of apparent weakness.

This is one of the few films I've seen where the more I think about it, the more clearly things are explained and the fewer plot holes there are.

In fact I'm not sure there are any actual plot holes in Den of Thieves, which is rare. If anyone found any, let me know.