14th September 2014 (UK)
A crew of retired crooks pull off a major heist in London's jewelry district.
Michael Caine, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Francesca Annis, Paul Whitehouse
Based on the real life Hatton Garden robbery in London during the Easter weekend of 2015, James Marsh’s new heist film King of Thieves hopes to capture the rough magic of previous British capers like Brighton Rock, The Long Good Friday and The Italian Job. Notably with a cast of Cockney acting royalty like Michael Caine and Ray Winstone, this new release definitely has the potential to deliver the stolen goods, but is it about to get caught red handed?
There have been an increasing amount of films recently starring actors and actresses over a certain age, usually belonging in the action or comedy genre. The closest to King of Thieves being 2017’s disappointing Going in Style (also starring Caine), but similar outings include Last Vegas, Red, Book Club and The Expendables series. The excitement or comedy of these films derive from seeing the 60+ year old actors behaving like energetic youngsters in their early 20s, but more often than not they fail to last in the memory by relying too heavily on their geriatric gimmick, or not investing enough in the characters. Sadly, King of Thieves does not buck this trend.
One of the most disappointing aspects to King of Thieves is that there is fun to be had during the 108 minute run time, especially in its playful heist sequence. To see Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse and Ray Winstone robbing a jewellery vault… Well there is a certain amount of joy in simply watching that unfold. The major problems arise due to the unlikeable characters they portray and a particularly misguided script.
Whilst the chief characters in KOT are admirably given glaring flaws that strike them off as ever being “good guys”, the films (mostly) light-hearted tone clashes with the rather despicable acts of its thieves, making it increasingly difficult to empathise or even enjoy the company of said characters. This issue is brought to the forefront as the crux of the humour quickly becomes as derivative as ‘lets watch old people effin’ n’ jeffin’. As you might expect, the charm wears away extremely fast.
Something else that will wear away fast is your attention as once the heist is concluded. KOT slows to a crawl as the band of OAP misfits try to split the dosh amidst backstabbing and betrayal. Scenes during this final third feel empty and devoid of any sort of progression. Jokes begin to fall flat and the most pointless police investigator I’ve ever seen is introduced to wrap the story up. The whole film ends up feeling very unimaginative by its conclusion.
Even when KOT is clearly wearing influences on it’s sleeve, it does so in the worst, most desperate way: It wants to be The Italian Job. It wants to be The Long Good Friday. But screenwriter Joe Penhall fails to realise you cannot be both, and in trying to be a jolly caper with a cast of very nasty characters it jeopardises the entire film. Even despite the decent performances and surface level fun, the by-the-books and patchy at best story-telling employed by Penhall’s writing fails to extrapolate substance or meaning, or even any basic character development or mood. It lacks everything needed of a worthwhile heist film then, and only offers novelty in it’s place.
It’s a crying shame that King of Thieves is so full of potential but falls so flat on its face, being robbed of it’s own success by a clumsy script and pedestrian direction.
Fun heist sequence
Decent performances from veteran cast
Thoroughly unlikable characters
Lighthearted tone clashes with despicable crimes
Serious pacing issues after the heist