Grandad’s army routed
A superb Michael Caine aside, tonally confused caper leaves iffy aftertaste
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