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King of Thieves

September 29, 2018

King of Thieves (2018)
Director: James Marsh
Actors: Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone

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Synopsis: After the death of his wife, veteran thief Brian Reader (Michael Caine) is tempted into one final job stealing from a vault of safe deposit boxes full of jewels, gold bullion and cash reserves within a secure Hatton Garden unit.

Review: It seemed certain from the moment that the Hatton Garden robbery occurred to great media interest in 2015, and especially after the identity of the four aged robbers was revealed in early 2016, that this story was destined for the big screen with some of Britain’s starry septuagenarian actors (excepting that Ray Winstone is still only in his sixties) ready to play the parts they’ve been offering variants of their whole career.

Based on this air of inevitability and familiarity, the film – to borrow an advertising analogy – “does exactly what it says on the tin”. We’ve had the younger male and female Ocean’s Eleven, and this is like the doddery, East End, aged Brits version. James Marsh is exactly the right safe pair of hands to tackle the material, and if his imprint is fairly generic and anomalous, he does seem to have borrowed the caper ethos of another real-life tale he dramatised, Man on Wire (the story of Philippe Petit’s famous ’70s Word Trade Center tightrope walk). As in that film, he employs tricksy montages from different mediums, although his co-opting of footage from Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay and even Paul Whitehouse’s most famous cinematic roles isn’t especially radical but almost a nod to the unspoken obviousness of these men’s Brit film lineage (excepting of course Whitehouse’s slightly less glamorous Fast Show reference point!)

The film is probably best when it sticks to its crowd-pleasing remit by having fun with its ‘dodgy old men pulling off an unlikely heist’ hook. When it tries to switch into a more moralistic tenor for the film’s second half where we are reminded almost didactically that these are actually a set of quite unpleasant individuals and they’re all battling existential as well as physical issues related to their age, it becomes a touch more tedious. But all in all, it’s a fun couple of hours and is proof that, often with cinema, a classy ensemble can paper over the cracks of even the most rote or familiar of scenarios. (September 2018)

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