There’s no honour among thieves in the heist movie King of Thieves. A group of senior citizens plan and execute the perfect robbery. But then they get greedy and distrustful of one another. Most of them are old and infirm men who should know better, but the lure of riches is overwhelming.
They’re led by a 77-year-old widower Brian Reader (Michael Caine), described as “the last of the gentlemen thieves”. He was rather famous for his exploits in his younger years. The gang manage to escape with more than £200 million worth of jewels and cash; but in next to no time the cops are all over them.
The film is based on the real-life Hatton Garden heist in April 2015. According to the sentencing judge in that prosecution that followed, many saw the burglary as the biggest in English legal history. Hence, it became perfect fodder to be turned into big screen entertainment.
Pity then that as a piece of entertainment it’s such a letdown; especially with names such as Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon and Ray Winstone associated with it. I found the pacing in King of Thieves pedestrian and my interest waned early on as a result.
The set-up was positively laborious. Later, after the robbery, the fall-out focused on these old blokes bickering. That’s all there was to it.
Amid all of that, the filmmakers tried to milk humour from the situation. So, on one hand we have threats and counter-threats; but then we’re meant to empathise with the predicament of the gang members. I didn’t buy it. The film lacked authenticity to me … and I found large parts of it boring.
Further, while we witness the police operation, the coppers say nothing. I suppose they don’t have to because the inept crooks play into their hands. Still, I found the silent treatment a curious technique to use to make the point.
Director James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) needed a stronger start and more content. Much of the blame rests on the screenplay by Joe Penhall (The Road).
While the idea behind King of Thieves held promise, the end result is less than ideal; so “compelling” isn’t a word I’d use with this one.
Director James Marsh
Cast: Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Ray Winstone
Release Date: 28 February 2019
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.