No, you’re over the hill! Picture: StudioCanal Films
No, you’re over the hill! Picture: StudioCanal Films

MOVIE REVIEW: Heist film wastes great story

THE Hatton Gardens heist was quite something.

Over Easter long weekend in 2015, wily thieves made off with what was originally thought to be 200 million pounds worth of money, gold and gemstones. It was quickly called the largest burglary in English history.

The crims broke into a safe deposit facility near London's jewellery district, went down an elevator shaft and drilled through a half-metre thick concrete wall to breach the safe room.

It was quite a feat and theorists were certain that such a mammoth effort must have involved eastern European gangs or other fearsome burglars.

It didn't. Those responsible turned out to be a group of old local men, crotchety and saggy robbers well past their prime.

 

Oldfellas
Oldfellas

 

The unlikely story of how these unlikely culprits pulled off the Hatton Gardens heist is the subject of King of Thieves, a new film directed by James Marsh and starring Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse and Ray Winston.

And they've thrown in whipper snapper Charlie Cox as Basil, a 30-something alarm specialist who brings them the plan.

At the centre of this geriatric gang is Brian Reader (Caine), the de facto leader whose reformation after a life of crime clearly didn't take.

When Basil approaches Brian at a funeral, it takes little convincing, and before long the rest of the group are recruited.

 

The only young’un among the lot
The only young’un among the lot

 

King of Thieves starts off as if it's Ocean's 79, where the intricacies of the caper in action make for some compelling viewing, especially when you factor in their aches and pains and tendency to nod off during a stake-out. Let's just say no one is contorting themselves to fit into a casino trolley.

But it's actually mostly concerned with the volatile relationships and power dynamics within the group as greed, fear and old grudges spill over into outright animosity.

Meanwhile, the crew's carelessness is so frustrating - though this was fortuitous for the real-life investigators who nabbed them. Maybe most of their past crimes were pre-CCTV and phone tracking.

As Brian says early on to his wife, "Gold drives people crazy". There really is no honour among thieves.

 

What a waste of a talented crew
What a waste of a talented crew

 

Despite some great performances from a group of legendary British thespians - Caine and Courtenay chief among them - King of Thieves is tired.

Its pacing mirrors the walking speed of its over-the-hill characters and it relies too heavily on the predictable gags that these types of movies featuring ensemble casts of older actors (Going in Style, Space Cowboys, RED) tend to lean on.

Even though the characters are crusty and mean-spirited, the movie itself feels tame and too amenable - maybe it's aimed at an audience whose pacemakers can't handle too much excitement.

The Hatton Gardens heist was a ballsy operation. You can't say the same about King of Thieves.

Rating: ★★

King of Thieves is in cinemas now.

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