King of Thieves Review
One year on from the release of the The Hatton Garden Job - a low budget take on the infamous heist that took place in London’s jewellery quarter - a more star studded cast try to crack the code in an attempt to give it some life. Director James Marsh is given the Crown Jewels of British acting with Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay and Paul Whitehouse all landing in his lap. Which makes it all the more amazing that he somehow botches the entire job.
The real safety deposit box burglary took place in 2015 and given the characters involved you can see why production companies were quick to bring it to the big screen (this is actually the third film, with a TV mini-series to come). It involved a group of pensioner-aged criminals going for the classic ‘one last job’ who ended up nabbing £14 million and in the process pulled off one of the biggest heists in UK history. Not a bad haul for an Easter Weekend.
Ex-con Brian Reader (Caine) is mourning the loss of his recently deceased wife who made him promise he would never return to a life of crime. His love for her being so deep and meaningful, before she has barely turned cold, Reader is teaming up with his old pals Terry (Broadbent), John (Courtenay), Carl (Whitehouse) and Danny (Winstone) planning the biggest heist of the decade.
The youngest member of the crew, Basil (Charlie Cox), is the man with the inside info that gets them past the alarms and down into the vaults. The deposit boxes are ransacked, they get out in one piece and the police start to track down the criminal masterminds who may have been responsible. Surely no one would expect a bunch of old codgers? As Courtenay jokingly says late in the film, “It wasn’t us officer, we're not capable.”
James Marsh is a highly competent director who has seen films like The Theory of Everything pick up multiple Oscar nominations and even go one stage further by collecting a golden statuette for his Man On Wire documentary. It’s hard to tally those career highlights against such a tonal mess of a film that painfully feels twice as long as it is. The pacing may be fitting for a bunch of dithering rascals yet the hyperactive editing in certain scenes makes it seem as if there is another film buried inside trying to jailbreak out.
Some directors are not cut out for certain genres and Marsh struggles to find any thrills in both the heist and in the investigation during the aftermath. The police stand around like mannequins and remain little more than an afterthought. Most of the budget has obviously gone towards paying the stars in the cast as the officers involved are afforded no more than two or three lines, their interactions reduced to embarrassing smiles, nods and winks towards each other.
You would expect such an experienced line-up to still get the job done regardless of a poor script and direction but even they barely seem bothered. It’s mostly a light-hearted look at the heist (and was recently accused of glorifying the robbery) that scrapes its laughs from how many times the old boys can lean into their London accents to tell each other to “fuck off”. It’s funny maybe once, but then you half expect Ray “Bet 365” Winstone to start calling out the betting odds on their chances of being caught.
King of Thieves feels like a reunion party featuring a list of guests you can’t wait to meet. It's only when you get there you realise you've been duped into talking to a bunch of imitators going through the motions. The film will appeal to a certain type of crowd who get to enjoy some old favourites up to their tricks again with a twinkle in their eye. Even the flashbacks to some of their younger cinematic selves included in the film add little panache. Instead, you'll feel as if they've stolen almost two hours of your life you'll never get to see again.