Grandad’s army routed

A su­perb Michael Caine aside, tonally con­fused caper leaves iffy af­ter­taste

The Herald Magazine - - Arts CINEMA - ALISON ROWAT

IT is per­haps fit­ting that this drama about the real-life Hat­ton Gar­den heist should it­self turn out to be a swizz. Play­ing out like a crime caper, com­plete with love­able old Cock­ney rogues, James Marsh’s pic­ture de­vel­ops into some­thing spikier. While you might en­joy the likes of Michael Caine and Tom Courte­nay strut­ting their stuff, it is hard to leave King of Thieves with­out feel­ing you have been done up like a kip­per, and that is never a good trick to play on an au­di­ence. Swin­dles are not very rock and roll when you are the vic­tim.

The break-in at a Hat­ton Gar­den safe de­posit com­pany over Easter 2015 was a made-for-cin­ema event. The po­lice thought at first the £14 mil­lion rob­bery was the work of a slick for­eign crew, only for it to emerge that the rob­bers were a bunch of old lags out for one last hur­rah, less Ocean’s 11 than Grandad’s Army, more Por­ridge than caviar. This is the third film based on the story, and other drama­ti­sa­tions are set to fol­low. It’s a good story, but not that good.

Caine plays Brian, the tit­u­lar king. The story opens with his wife’s fu­neral, at which old faces are re­united. Terry (Jim Broad­bent), Danny (Ray Win­stone) and Kenny (Courte­nay) are talk­ing about the good old days do­ing bad deeds. It’s harm­less gum-bang­ing, but when a young con­tact of Brian’s (Char­lie Cox) gets in touch to say he has a key to a place in Hat­ton Gar­den, rem­i­nisc­ing turns to plan­ning.

For the most part, Marsh (The The­ory of Ev­ery­thing) lets the story play out like a mod­ern-day Laven­der Hill Mob, al­beit with the cast scat­ter­ing F-bombs like con­fetti. There seems to be a com­pe­ti­tion go­ing on as to who can say the word with the most feel­ing.

The trou­ble starts when the tale takes a turn for the bleak and nasty as the thieves inevitably fall out. More­over, their age, which had been treated as the source of gags, is turned against them to make them seem pa­thetic. The tone is all over the shop.

Worse, at this point it emerges that there was more to some of the char­ac­ters than had been sug­gested. Had Marsh made this known ear­lier, the film could not have taken off as a

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