King of Thieves Review

King of Thieves

When news of the Hatton Garden Heist broke in April 2015, every self-respecting screenwriter and novelist must have been waiting with bated breath to see how it all turned out.

Just so they could hastily adapt the story, of course.

To date, there have been no less than three films based on the burglary, with King of Thieves being the most recent.

James Marsh’s film boasts an impressive cast of cinematic geezers, including Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay and Michael Gambon.

Caine plays ringleader Brian Reader, a former criminal trying to go straight. Upon the death of his wife, Reader finds himself missing his old life and formulates a plan to hit the safe deposit in London’s Hatton Garden.

Reader is aided by the awkward Basil (Charlie Cox), a young electrician and alarms expert, and ropes in a group of old muckers to help with the heavy lifting.

And when I say old muckers, I do mean old.

There’s Terry Perkins (Broadbent) who seems more than a little unhinged; Kenny Collins (Courtenay) who is firmly on thermos and lookout duty; and the lively Danny (Ray Winstone) who loves doing a handstand at a funeral.

Rounding out the group is Carl (Paul Whitehouse) and Kenny’s fence of choice, a chap by the name of Billy the Fish (Gambon).

The burglary took place over the Easter weekend, which gave the gang plenty of time before the alarm was raised.

In the aftermath, we see suspicion and greed descend and various fallouts between the group members…

It certainly is a curious film, something like Ocean’s Eleven meets Last of the Summer Wine.

One of the issues with the film is how it seems to focus less on the real-life events than it does on the back catalogue of Caine et al.

Is this a faithful retelling of a true story or a comeback gig for veterans of British cinema? The film certainly struggles to be both, with the tone veering between gentle farce and gritty drama.

The pacing and story structure doesn’t help. The first twenty minutes of the film feel like a frantic dash to get to the heist, and as a result the characters are thinly drawn.

The motivations of Caine’s lead character are particularly confusing. He seems to be a man of means, who has previously sworn to his wife that he would not get back involved in crime. He then betrays her memory by getting back involved in crime, apparently out of boredom.

The film does have its moments. Caine is in his element in a scene where he confronts another member of the gang at a darkly-lit kitchen table. And Winstone is always watchable, swaggering menacingly through the movie.

The usually avuncular Broadbent does however jar as a wild-eyed psycho and Courtenay seems to belong in another movie altogether.

If you’re looking for either a gripping Brit-gangster thriller or a Guy-Ritchie-style caper, Marsh’s movie struggles to fully tick either box.

But for those who are happy to see Caine and company riff off each other and hark back to their earlier glories, this is the film for you.

Conor Brennan

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September 2018
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