King of Thieves
The nation gasped in collective disbelief when the news broke that an Easter-weekend robbery, requiring a combination of the highest intelligence and skill, had been successfully executed in the London Jewellery Quarter of Hatton Garden in April 2015. Greater still was the wide-eyed surprise when the rigorous six-week subsequent investigation that followed revealed that the operation, notoriously coined the “ultimate prize” by gangsters and thieves alike, was pulled off by one of the most astonishing groups of former convicted criminals that the world has ever witnessed. The planning was acute, the job carried out without a blemish, but despite these spectacular motions, what followed can only be described as a catastrophic blunder. This is that story: a true feature-length adaptation that in all honesty needed no script. This is the time that a group of men sought to pull off the greatest heist the capital has ever witnessed.
King of Thieves features an array of British heavyweights, none more hard-hitting than Michael Caine, who plays the gritty widower and mastermind behind the entire procedure. Having just lost his beloved wife, Brian Reader is looking for solace and purpose through the misty haze of grief, something that is proving harder than he anticipated at the age of 77. With gentle prodding from youthful electronics whizz-kid Basil (Charlie Cox), the pensioner decides to embark on one final opportunity that he feels cannot be missed. Assembling a band of ingenious and experienced misfit criminals including hot-head Danny Jones (Ray Winstone) and diabetic veteran of the trade Terrance Perkins (Jim Broadbent), Brian and Basil lay out the blueprint that will enable them to get their hands on a multi-million-pound hoard and a bumper pension. However, it soon becomes apparent that robbing the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company may well be the least of the group’s worries, thanks to numerous physical and mental ailments, along with the impending and inevitable cracks that form when it comes to dividing up millions of pounds worth of stolen jewels under the watchful eye of the law.
The authenticity of the film’s plot makes for very entertaining and alluring viewing, with the star-studded UK cast all bringing their own unique style and personality to their roles. This isn’t just any old Hollywood heist movie; on the contrary, it is undeniably British, both in its script and through the actions of its characters. The protagonist’s real-life counterparts have been widely lauded as heroes due to the pure audacity of their endeavour, and this is reflected in director James Marsh’s work – with the Academy Award-winner not only assembling a cast with pedigree, sharp wit and comic timing, but also implementing sincere and aphotic undertones in a clever blend that allows the audience to warm to the characters whilst also reminding you that they aren’t all sugar and spice.
However, attempting to mix such tenets can lead to unfortunate tonal inconsistencies, stultifying the overall effect. Although the overlying narrative is present, this appears to be the case for Marsh’s latest project, with the film seeming unable to make up its mind whether it’s as sinister as Gangster No. 1 or an Ealing Comedy. It makes the picture warm to watch, but rhythmic flaws become more evident as the movie wears on, not assisted by the varying pace of its three acts.
The feature does, however, possess slick, cinematic montages interjected with both old newsreel footage and dated movie scenes from the core cast member’s earlier career appearances – an effect the director uses to affirm to the audience that for the Hatton Garden men, stealing has been a way of life, something bred into their being that satisfies an undying craving for more regardless of their age. A soundtrack primarily made up of jazz adds a classier, more sophisticated feel to proceedings, with the smooth rhythms symbolising the age of the men’s criminal heyday in the 60s and 70s, whilst also manifesting an ambience not too dissimilar to that of Guy Ritchie’s British gangster cult classics Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. King of Thieves is a firm attempt at retelling a tale that was begging for an on-screen adaptation and you may well struggle to recount the narrative in a more effective form. It seems, in all honesty, nothing can beat the true story.
King of Thieves is released nationwide on 14th September 2018.
Watch the trailer for King of Thieves here: