King Of Thieves

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

King Of Thieves
"This gang may look like lovable rogues but they're as hard as a boot in the bollocks when things get sticky" | Photo: King Of Thieves

Silly title. It deserves better.

As well as being a natural for the big screen the story is based on real events. What movie producer could resist five old lags and a young 'un, who knows about computers, pulling off "the largest burglary in English legal history"?

Copy picture

The cast picks itself. "Blow the bloody doors off" is in charge - for a while at least before the others start bitching. What about the others? Only la creme de les dodgy geezers - Broadbent, Courtenay, Winstone, Whitehouse and, on loan from his apprenticeship, Charlie Cox.

Writer Joe Penhall and director James Marsh (Man On Wire, The Theory Of Everything) avoid the temptation of accentuating the age handicap and turning the whole thing into farce.

The script is smart and witty, neither patronising nor soft centred. Marsh keeps the action moving fast enough to stop those OAPs in the audience from taking their midday nap. Also, he refuses to compromise by sucking the juice out of feelgood and distributing it across the body of your desires.

This gang may look like lovable rogues but they're as hard as a boot in the bollocks when things get sticky. Loyalty is a word meaning up yours, matey! Tough guys don't cry. They don't share either.

The plan for the heist is stone cold simple. Easter weekend sleeps like a baby in Hatton Garden. The hand picked team of villains move in (they have a key), cut the wires, drop down into the basement with heavy gear that eventually, after a false start, make a hole through the concrete wall into the safe deposit vault and zippity doo dah it's Christmas!

Afterwards, inevitably, the bickering, which almost wrecked the robbery earlier, starts to cut deep. Certain members are pushed out. Another takes control. The distribution of diamonds and cash is not fairly split. Things turn ugly. Greed does its thing and for once The Bill doesn't behave like a bunny in headlights.

Michael Caine eases into high gear so smoothly you hardly notice. It's a magic trick. His presence on screen becomes a lesson in the quality of minimal performance, capturing every nuance of human emotion. Jim Broadbent exposes once more the breadth of his talent and Ray Winstone appears to be playing Ray Winstone again, but don't let the voice fool you, he is master of his craft. Paul Whitehouse and Tom Courtenay are happy to be the butt of the other's jokes and by keeping out of the line of fire Cox contributes more than the script demands. Coming late to the party is Michael Gambon as the fence - a miniature masterpiece of comic acting. Finally, talking of perfection, the soundtrack hits the spot with deceptive accuracy over and over.

Although reminiscent of Ealing Studios in the Guinness era, there is nothing fuddy about this duddy.

Reviewed on: 06 Sep 2018
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The famous Hatton Garden jewel robbery carried out by a team of retired villains in 2015 that became "the largest burglary in English legal history"

Director: James Marsh

Writer: Joe Penhall, based on the magazine article by Mark Seal

Starring: Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Charlie Cox, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse, Michael Gambon, Francesca Annis, Ann Akin, Claire Lichie, Bernardo Santos, Kellie Shirley

Year: 2018

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: United Kingdom

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