Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse, and Ray Winstone in King of Thieves (2018)

Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse & Ray Winstone in KING OF THIEVES (2018) 

Despite its stellar cast, KING OF THIEVES’ weak script and thin characterisation frustrates rather than entertains

Following the release of THE HATTON GARDEN JOB starring Larry Lamb and Matthew Goode last year and talk of a new TV show, the daring Hatton Garden jewellery heist of 2015 is certainly getting its fair share of screen time. Joining the mix is James Marsh’s new film KING OF THIEVES starring Michael Caine as the leader of the ragtag group of felonious senior citizens.

Based on a true story, KING OF THIEVES follows a crew of retired crooks who pull off a robbery in London’s jewellery district. When widower Brian Reader (Caine) is approached by introverted electrician Basil (Charlie Cox) with a grand plan to rob the famous Hatton Garden vaults, he can’t resist a score that will set him up for the rest of his life. Pulling together a band of misfit criminals – all in their 60s and 70s – the gang employ their old-school thieving skills to plan the heist over the Easter weekend. But as the crime continues, the gang find that greed gets the better of them and the police slowly start to build up their case.

Anyone familiar with the infamous Hatton Garden robbery will understand why director Marsh was attracted to the project. The true story about an unlikely gang of retirees that escaped with more than £200 million worth of stolen jewels and money is bonkers enough to catch anyone’s attention. Add in a screenplay by MINDHUNTER’s Joe Penhall and cast of stalwarts including Caine, Jim Broadbent, Courtenay, Ray Winstone and Michael Gambon and it looks like you’re onto a winner. Shame then that KING OF THIEVES fails to live up expectation.

The biggest problem with KING OF THIEVES is that it isn’t really sure what genre of film it fits into. Marsh can’t decide whether to mimic the broad humour of an Ealing comedy like THE LAVENDER HILL MOB or deliver a serious heist film so he opts for both – sometimes even in the same scene – resulting in the tone feeling a little all over the place.

Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse and Ray Winstone in King of Thieves (2018)

Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse & Ray Winstone in KING OF THIEVES (2018)

The same can be said for its visual style. With THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2014) and the 2008 documentary MAN ON WIRE under his belt, Marsh clearly knows how to make a good-looking film but KING OF THIEVES is very disjointed. Incongruous camera work is employed here with some inexplicably awkward angles and amateurish zooms. Even the heist itself lacks tension and the aftermath – where the gang turn on each other – simply doesn’t have enough oomph.

More disappointing is Joe Penhall’s script which never lets us see beyond the surface of these characters. We are told on numerous occasions that these are dangerous men but bar the odd ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ flashback, never really see any evidence of this. When we first see Michael Caine, he’s a soft ex-crook worried about his wife’s upcoming surgery. Then, suddenly he’s a dangerous criminal whom the others fear. It is this thin characterisation that doesn’t really translate very well and hinders the otherwise impressive cast.

Thankfully, there are some decent performances, with Jim Broadbent, in particular, standing out as alpha rival Terry Perkins, the once unhinged career-criminal who could blow at any time. Ray Winstone entertains as reliable Cockney tough nut Danny, while Tom Courtenay provides some light comic relief as doddery “Kenny” Collins. Sadly, Michael Caine isn’t used nearly enough and Michael Gambon is relegated to a devastatingly small, albeit funny, role as gormless fishmonger Billy “The Fish”.

Considering the pedigree behind the camera, KING OF THIEVES should be an instant hit but thanks to its clumpy dialogue, flat gags and patchy story-telling, the film frustrates rather than entertains. Unless you’re desperate to witness it, I’d save your hard-earned cash and wait for it to hit Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

2 out of 5 stars

KING OF THIEVES is released in UK cinemas from 14 September 2018.