MATTHEW BOND FILM OF THE WEEK
KC ert: 15
ing Of Thieves is co-produced by those clever people at Working Title, directed by James Marsh (who made the wonderful Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory Of Everything) and, most propitiously of all, stars those two giants of British cinema – Michael Caine and Tom Courtenay. And yet for all this cinematic pedigree, it struggles – sometimes seriously – to be anything more than workmanlike. To put it more bluntly, at times, it’s just not very good.
That’s partly a problem of familiarity. The infamous Hatton Garden burglary – when a team of aging career crooks broke into a safe-deposit vault over an Easter weekend and made off with tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of pounds worth of cash, diamonds and gold – happened in 2015. That’s hardly long enough ago to be forgotten, even without the various film versions that have come out at the rate of one a year ever since. King Of Thieves may be the starriest of those, but it would also be nice if it was the last too.
Caine, despite being almost a decade older than his character, plays Brian Reader, a villain with a long and violent criminal record. But Reader’s getting old (he was 76), and had promised his dying wife that he’d go straight. But when a young associate (Charlie Cox) reveals that he has both a key and the alarm details for a safe-deposit building in London’s jewellery district, he can’t resist. All Reader needs 16
is a gang. ‘Hatton Garden?’ moans one of his ageing recruits. ‘Too many stairs for me at my age.’
‘We can always install a stair lift,’ replies Reader, which isn’t quite up there with ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’, but shows Caine can still deliver a nice line. If only he had a few more.
Soon his group of geriatrics (an early alternative title was apparently The Over The Hill Mob) is assembled. There’s the volatile Terry (Jim Broadbent), the funny but shorttempered Danny (Ray Winstone) and the allotment-loving Carl (Paul Whitehouse). The gang is completed by Kenny (Courtenay), who was 74 at the time of the robbery, relied on two hearing aids and was prone to falling asleep. It’s around now that the first cracks in the film start to show, with Marsh not sure whether he’s making a thriller or a comic caper, and possibly not very interested in making either. The result is decidedly uneven and lacking in drama, with Courtenay giving a bumbling performance that is out-and-out comedy, while Broadbent tries to give us the chills. Only Winstone, whose mere presence makes comparisons with Jonathan Glazer’s infinitely more stylish Sexy Beast inevitable, makes a decent stab at both. But it’s not enough. Hampered by our knowledge of the story – we all know how this tale of incompetence ends – the final result feels strangely flat.
More damage is done when a wildly overacting Michael Gambon arrives as Billy the Fish, an incontinent and possibly deranged ‘fence’ with a part-time job at Billingsgate fish market. ‘It’s the deaf leading the blind,’ observes Danny in despair.
It’s tempting to say something similar about the whole film, but that would be unfair. True, it lacks a creative vision and relies far too heavily on a rather tired brand of
From left: Broadbent, Winstone and Cox in the Hatton Garden vault