King of Thieves has a great cast, some decent gags, but a poor heist
Matt GlasbyReviews | 18 October 18
It may not have made waves internationally, but the Hatton Garden Robbery of 2015—in which a bunch of London pensioners pulled off the largest burglary in UK history—was, to paraphrase a certain newsreader, kind of a big deal in England.
It’s already been the subject of two (not especially good) films, but with James Marsh (Man on Wire) directing, and a cast including Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and Tom Courtenay, King of Thieves is the one that threatens to blow the bloody doors off.
It begins with a brisk intro to career criminal Brian Reader (Caine) and his gang of ageing geezers. When electronics expert Basil (Charlie Cox) suggests robbing a central London safety-deposit facility, they don’t take much persuading. It’s a daring plan that involves sneaking in over Easter weekend then drilling into the vault without getting caught—or, in the case of the larger gentlemen, stuck.
Unusually for a film that feints towards the caper movie (“So that’s how they see us, is it? The Lavender Hill Mob?” huffs Caine), the robbery itself is disappointingly perfunctory. Joe Penhall’s script offers some decent gags (“Why am I doing the dangerous bits?” asks Winstone. “You’re the youngest,” deadpans Cox), but never gets the pulse racing.
In the aftermath, things go predictably—if not rapidly—south, both for the gang and the viewer. By cutting away to clips of the cast’s earlier movies, Marsh seems to be mourning the passing of their glory days, but why? Though the actors do their best, their characters are neither compelling nor especially convincing, and they deserve everything they get. Indeed, the greatest mystery is how, with so much talent onboard, the crime of the century became a movie of the week.
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