Review of 'King of Thieves'

king_of_thieves.jpg A true crime drama telling the story of a group of retired crooks who get together to pull off one last job: A heist of a diamond repository in Hatton Garden, London. Brian Reader (Sir Michael Caine) is the self-styled leader of the group who is somewhat dissatisfied with his life after the recent passing of his wife. Brian becomes interested when technical wizard Basil (Charlie Cox) proposes the heist having come into possession of a key to the depository. On short order Terry Perkins (Jim Broadbent), Kenny Collins (Tom Courtenay), and Danny Jones (Ray Winstone) join the group to perform the heist on an Easter weekend, when no one will be around for four days which will allow them time to drill through the 2 feet of concrete surrounding the vault. Later, the fence Billy 'The Fish' Lincoln (Michael Gambon) is let into the group to help in the sale of any jewels.

I have a bit of a personal interest in this story as I worked in Hatton Garden at the time of the heist and remember coming to work on the Tuesday following the weekend of the robbery to see the whole area cordoned off by the police. The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit was, literally, right around the corner from my office. I was interested to actually learned what had happened and the people behind it. A few things that struck me were: (1) no one really knows how much was stolen as no central records were kept (for various reasons mostly to do with hiding this information from insurance companies) (2) the caper was pulled off so easily (despite a guard showing up during the robbery, he did nothing), (3) the age of the thieves and (4) the thickness of the walls…

The first part of the film deals with the caper while the second half is full of the characters bickering over the stolen goods which gets more than a bit tiring with no one telling the truth and selfishly scrabbling to grab what they can eventually leaving the viewer completely in the dark as to what is what. There is not a lot of joy in this film, even the robbery itself is treated in a fairly mundane fashion as they take each step in turn and seem to have no problems in accomplishing their goal. You would think that the robbery would be a source of a bit of excitement but this turns out not to be the case.

The cast is, of course, jam-packed with huge names but they play such dislikeable characters I have to think the talent is wasted here. With robbery films you want to have loveable rogues who you can cheer on as they accomplish the impossible. Here the one-dimensional rogues are unlovable (without exception) and the robbery is treated as a stroll in the park. The drama is more in the infighting than it is in the crime which becomes extraordinarily tedious by the end of the film. Perhaps close to the truth of the story but it does not necessarily make for an entertaining film.

What is a nice touch is the occasional flashbacks to the characters in their hey-day but otherwise the film is a bit, well, boring and tedious. Sorry Sir Michael!

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2021-03-20

Directed by: James Marsh

Studio: StudioCanal

Year: 2018

Length: 108 minutes

Genre: Melodrama

Other reviewed films by James Marsh: