SCOTTISH action hero export Gerard Butler leads this ultra-macho crime actioner that stands firmly in the shadow of its primary influence, Michael Mann’s 1995 classic Heat, but manages to be entertaining enough thanks to a certain testosterone-fuelled swagger.

Some opening statistics present its Los Angeles location as the bank robbery capital of the Western world – apparently one every 48 minutes. Before long we’re launched into a daring early morning heist at the hands of masked men with guns

who are clearly up to more than meets the eye when they steal an empty security truck.

In steps “Big Nick” O’Brien, “the original gangster cop in the flesh,” played with smug, no-nonsense gruffness by Butler that shows off a little more of a self-aware glint in his eye than usual.

He heads up an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Department who specialize in tracking and stopping highly skilled bank robbers.

When the city’s most successful group of robbers, led by ruthless ex-soldier and freshly-paroled Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), start to plan a seemingly impossible heist on the supposedly impenetrable Federal Reserve, Big Nick’s crew must figure out what’s really going on, forcing getaway driver and newest member of the robbers, Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr), to help them.

First-time director Christian Gudegast, who has a previous writing credit on Butler’s own London Has Fallen, is clearly enamoured with the types of gritty, tough-as-nails crime movies that have come before.

Aside from Heat the likes of Training Day, Harsh Times, End of Watch and a million others of that ilk feel soaked into its very DNA and it often reminds you just what those movies did better.

But despite its familiarity, there is a pulpy sense of bravura on display and a gritty tone that convinces enough despite how ridiculous it can get. Gudegast’s script, on which he shares a story credit with Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring, is surprisingly involving for the type of film that is, keeping things engaging throughout its sprawling 140 minute runtime as it consistently and quite effectively shifts focus between its array of characters in a way that provides a neat cops-and-robbers battle of brains and inevitable brawn. “You’re not the bad guys,” Butler says to an out-of-his-depth Jackson Jr. “We are.”

A steady series of high-octane set-pieces escalate towards an impressively-staged heist that plays out like Ocean’s Eleven on hard steroids – a sequence that’s worth the time and money alone. It’s certainly nothing we haven’t seen before done better but as a robust, unashamedly macho, resolutely gritty crime flick, it does what it says on the tin.

Rating: ★★★