Review – Crusty crooks fail to inspire in ‘King of Thieves’

Poster for 2018 heist thriller King of Thieves

Genre: Crime
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 14th September 2018
Runtime: 108 minutes
Director: James Marsh
Writer: Joe Penhall
Starring: Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Charlie Cox, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse, Michael Gambon
Synopsis: A group of ageing crooks decide to take on one final job, breaking into the Hatton Garden safe deposit vault, making off with millions of pounds in assorted loot.



The Hatton Garden heist captured the imagination of the British public in a big way back in 2015, and became even more exciting when it turned out that the daring burglary had been carried out by a group of old blokes, rather than foreigners as the media speculated or a high-tech, modern gang. The British film industry has ticked into overdrive in order to make movies about the heist and King of Thieves is by no means the first take on the story to arrive on screens. It is, however, the one that has Michael Caine in and that makes it the de facto winner of the race.

Caine plays Brian Reader, who serves as the ringleader for the heist. He meets up again with a number of his criminal friends at his wife’s funeral and it’s there that the prospect of Hatton Garden shows up. With old buddies Terry (Jim Broadbent) and Kenny (Tom Courtenay) on board, as well as the – somewhat – younger buck Danny (Ray Winstone), the plan begins to form. Reader’s goal becomes more of a reality when he meets Basil (Charlie Cox), who is something of a wannabe thief and just happens to have access to a key that will get them inside the building over the Easter weekend.

King of Thieves is a movie that struggles with tone. Its first half paints these ageing thieves as lovable old codgers who banter about hearing aids and busted hips – Old Age Pilferers. After the heist, though, the film shatters into fragments and turns into an absolute mess of nastiness and botched narrative subplots. Caine’s pivotal character simply wanders off for half an hour or so, while the rest of them bicker and squabble about “getting round a smelter”, as if that’s a thing anyone has ever said.

The performances are as bizarre and confused as the rest of the movie. Broadbent is genuinely compelling when he is given the rare chance to go nasty in the second half, but it all comes a little too late. It’s he and Winstone who anchor the movie in these scenes, but there’s an aimless muddle to the storytelling that makes the story lose all coherence just as the tension should be amping up a gear. The police investigation unfolds so far in the background that there’s never any sense that the net is closing in on these characters. There’s just the sound of sirens one day.

It’s sad to see the movie fall apart like this given the incredible amount of pure talent involved in making King of Thieves. Director James Marsh has a strong pedigree in both fiction and non-fiction, while writer Joe Penhall has ample experience of true crime tales having created Mindhunter. Add to that one of the most glittering casts of British legends ever assembled and the result should be a guaranteed future classic. That, however, would have required the movie to have twice as much energy, confidence and sense of fun.

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

The Hatton Garden burglary is one of the most thrilling events to have taken place in Britain for many years, so it should’ve made for an equally thrilling movie, especially with at least half of the UK’s acting royalty in front of the camera. King of Thieves, though, has all of the energy of a zimmer frame foot chase.


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