Film review: King Of Thieves

Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse, Jim Broadbent and Ray Winstone in King Of Thieves
Damon Smith

IN APRIL 2015, Hatton Garden – London's famed jewellery quarter – became the scene of a daring and audacious robbery.

Over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend when the street was closed for business, a team of criminals descended a lift shaft to access the basement then used a heavy-duty drill to bore through walls, providing them with access to a vault of safety deposit boxes filled with priceless treasures.

The thieves ransacked dozens of boxes and escaped in a waiting van.

Newspapers speculated wildly that the stolen haul could be worth as much as £200 million.

Around six weeks after the robbery, the Metropolitan Police announced nine arrests and a gang of 60- and 70-something career criminals were unmasked as the perpetrators of the audacious heist.

King Of Thieves dramatises the robbery, offering one expletive-laden version of events masterminded by screenwriter Joe Penhall.

Considering the rich source material and an Oscar-calibre cast led by Sir Michael Caine and Jim Broadbent, director James Marsh's film is curiously devoid of suspense or engaging characters.

The only thing separating this lacklustre tale of dodgy geezers and divided loyalties from Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels' countless imitators is the advancing years of the central protagonists.

Career criminal Brian Reader (Sir Michael Caine) is devastated by the death of his wife, who made him promise that he would "stay out of mischief" when she was gone.

He commiserates in the company of friends and associates including exuberant technical wizard Basil (Charlie Cox), who hopes to persuade Brian to lead a daring heist.

Basil claims to have insider knowledge about the security system and layout of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd, which holds millions of pounds in cash and uncut diamonds in its subterranean vault.

Brian considers breaking his promise to his wife as he chats with associates Terry Perkins (Jim Broadbent), John Kenny Collins (Sir Tom Courtenay) and Danny Jones (Ray Winstone), who urge the veteran thief to listen to Basil because, "If you don't have a go, someone else will".

The men start their reconnaissance and involve another friend, Carl Wood (Paul Whitehouse), plus a fence called Billy 'The Fish' Lincoln (Sir Michael Gambon), who will shift any jewellery and gems through his underground network.

King Of Thieves struggles to pickpocket our undivided attention for 108 minutes, losing dramatic momentum as tempers flare and fissures appear in the band of brothers as they divide their glittering spoils.

Caine, Broadbent and Courtenay are always watchable but the script doesn't test their acting mettle while Gambon embraces his thinly sketched character's wide-eyed lunacy to comical effect.

Marsh stages the pivotal robbery with assurance but his film arrives a week after the riveting true-life crime thriller American Animals, and wilts in comparison.

KING OF THIEVES (15, 108 mins) Thriller/Drama. Sir Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Charlie Cox, Sir Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse, Ray Winstone, Sir Michael Gambon. Director: James Marsh.

RATING: 5/10

Released: September 14 

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