• Guy Jeffries

King of Thieves


Director: James Marsh.

Starring: Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Charlie Cox, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse, Michael Gambon.

Looks like it’s time for some good ol’ fashioned British villainy but it’s about a real life, mammoth heist that took place only a few years ago. It’s strange that the marketing credited producers from Legend, Darkest Hour and Baby Driver as this film is nothing like any of them, which could be seen as a warning, and if James Marsh’s films are anything to go by, well...

Based on the article “The Over the Hill Mob” written by Mark Seal for Vanity Fair back in March 2016 that covered the incredible true story of the Great Hatton Garden heist, coined “the greatest heist in British history” by the BBC that took place over Easter in 2015, where an estimated £300million in cash and jewellery was stolen by, what was originally suspected, a highly technical team of super agile and fit heisters.

But the fact that this is a true story, and that these guys were in their retirement years, having spent their working life as career criminals or behind bars, makes this an intriguing story. It is quite unbelievable that these pensioners, most of them suffering from more than one medical condition and ultimately old age, managed to pull off the biggest heist in British history. And this film makes it look all so easy, even when they hit a vault wall.

There’s an obvious, epic cast assembly here with Caine taking the lead who easily slips into harden criminal slippers, as does Winstone. The surprise here was Broadbent. We’re all use to seeing Caine and Winstone being aggressive and naughty but Broadbent? It was actually really refreshing to see him in this kind of role and he does well to actually come across as one of the most menacing; yes, Jim Broadbent; Bridget Jones’s Dad, Paddington’s Mr. Gruber and Harry Potter’s Prof. Horace Slughorn threatening to set people on fire. The rest of the cast is very mixed yet matches and the chemistry works. Cox playing the nervous, supposedly rookie who’s quite wet, Courtenay playing the sly, deaf, cowardly fool, Winehouse filling in where he can and Gambon doing an amazing incontinent drunk.

The script doesn’t shy away from what real East End villains would talk like and I can understand the banter and the causal cursing amongst the mob that does display the typical British sense of humour. But I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a comedy, yet the delivery and timing would suggest so. This is where the story suffers from an identity crisis and I lay blame on the trailers; marketing this as a comedy crime caper.

This comes from the director of The Theory of Everything and the Oscar winning documentary, Man on Wire. So shouldn’t we expect good things from this? Sadly the film as a whole, is messy. It’s as if the writers struggled to flesh out the heist part of the film with some meaningless character building, mostly all around Caine’s Brian Reader. It was like they had an idea for a movie but wasn’t sure where to begin or even how to finish it. And the crazy thing is, Reader is an impressive character in real life and I wonder what his thoughts are on the film.

Even with the nice little touches and attention to detail regarding the characters, I don’t think the film does much justice to the people involved and reading their backstories is far more exciting. There’s was a lot of potential to expand on the stories behind these characters, yet the film does nod on certain facts, but the audience are expected to have prior knowledge to these criminals so many of these Easter Eggs will be wasted.

Reader was allegedly a member of the Millionaire Moles that famously tunnelled under a Lloyds bank vault and was connected to the famed Brink-Mat Job of 1983; and Perkins, that same year, was instigator and leader for the Security Express Job which had them walk away with estimated loot of £9million. And this is just a snippet from their backgrounds but the film only hints at these, sometimes during dialogue in what might be a clever attempt to not distract for this heist.

Those familiar with Marsh’s work will know he’s fully capable of making a good film, so I feel something is amiss here, maybe rushed? Studio pressures? Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations all together. I can’t decide on what this film was trying to be. Is it a comedy caper or a just a funny way of telling a serious story? Ultimately, i believe the marketing has a lot to answer for, but either way, no matter how they promoted it, it’s going to be misleading. Maybe it was intentional.

Running Time: 5

The Cast: 8

Performance: 7

Direction: 5

Story: 4

Script: 4

Creativity: 5

Soundtrack: 5

Job Description: 1

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

44% 4/10

#JamesMarsh #MichaelCaine #JimBroadbent #RayWinstone #CharlieCox #TomCourtenay #PaulWhitehouse #MichaelGambon #BenjaminWallfisch