Director: James Marsh
Cast: Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Ray Winstone, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon
Runtime: 1 hr 48 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 9 May 2019
Synopsis: Directed by Academy Award-winning director James Marsh, KING OF THIEVES is the incredible true story of the spectacular Hatton Garden diamond heist, the biggest and most daring in British history, humorously told through career best performances from a stellar cast; Academy Award winner Sir Michael Caine, Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent, Academy Award nominee Tom Courtenay, Ray Winstone, Michael Gambon, and Charlie Cox.
Not often does a film like ‘King of Thieves’ come along, one that is tailor-made for such enduring stars as Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Ray Winstone and Michael Gambon. These are some of the finest British actors of the 20th century, and the real-life story of the headline-grabbing robbery by an “over-the-hill mob” who broke into the impenetrable Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company seems just the perfect vehicle to unite them in a single movie.
And on that level alone, this Cockney crime caper is a joy to watch. Caine, looking older than when many of us would have seen him last in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’, still is formidable as the steely leader of the geriatric gang. As the titular ‘king of thieves’ named Brian Reader who had recently lost his beloved wife (Francesca Amis), Caine poignantly expresses the guilt of having broken a promise to his dying missus to go straight and the lure of doing one last big job to overcome an almost overwhelming sense of old-age obsolescence.
On the other hand, Broadbent is refreshingly cast against type as the selfish and sadistic Terry Perkins, sowing distrust among his fellow pals and then fanning their subsequent paranoia. Winstone is suitably nasty as the resident tough guy Danny Jones, whom Terry exploits to arm-twist the rest of the gang, in particular Courtenay’s weaselly John Collins. And rounding up the cast is ‘Daredevil’s’ Charlie Cox, whom Brian had enlisted to deactivate the vault’s alarm system, and whose character proves to be a lot less guileless than he may seem.
As outstanding as the performances are, the film itself isn’t quite as dazzling. Scripted by Joe Penhall, its first half details the planning and execution of the break-in, which rather than being an exciting build-off, comes off oddly anaemic and lethargic. Even with the occasional jokes about knee liniment, disability payments and insulin jabs to distract you, it is hard to ignore the sketchy plotting and slack pacing, which director James Marsh struggles to inject excitement into.
Thankfully, things do pick up later on, as the gang falls apart from within and the authorities close in from outside. Yet, you’d wish that there were more tension, suspense and surprise in the proceedings, which fails even towards the end to make your pulse race. It is telling that the movie ends with a montage of clips from each actor’s onscreen prime, as if trying to make sure that you would take to it more kindly through nostalgic lenses.
Still, as a reunion of Caine, Broadbent, Courtenay, Winstone and Gambon, ‘King of Thieves’ conjures enough to make it worth your while. Like we said at the start, it’s rare that these fine senior actors are the stars of their own movie, rather than in key supporting roles as they seem to often end up in recently. We wish the storytelling was less tedious though, but even though it doesn’t quite live up to the collective weight of their combined talents, there is real pleasure in watching these old lions at work.
(A fine ensemble of British acting legends bring charm and spark to this Cockney crime caper, but their talents are squandered somewhat by the film's own sketchy plotting and slack pacing)
Review by Gabriel Chong