Film Review: King of Thieves

A cast of late career British legends make this occasionally wobbly true crime caper seem sharper and funnier than it really is.

Directed by James Marsh (head-to-head with his darker and stronger The Mercy), it’s a celebration of the main cast members, most of whom are British stage and screen legends, and all of whom keep on amusingly noting that they’re well and truly on the way out.

77 year old Brian Reader (Michael Caine, actually in his mid-80s), a former criminal, is grieving after the death of his wife Lynne (Francesca Annis), and initially we’re allowed to see Caine at his quiet, understated best before the snarling and swearing start. Brian is approached by young, vaguely neurotic bad-guy-wannabe Basil (Charlie Cox), who suggests a daringly complex jewel raid on the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit over the Easter long weekend.

Improbably (but it did happen that way), Brian assembles a team that includes some of his oldest, shadiest pals, including Terry Perkins (Jim Broadbent), John Kenny Collins (Tom Courtenay), Danny Jones (Ray Winstone), Carl Wood (comedian Paul Whitehouse, best-known for The Fast Show) and, later on and unwillingly, ‘fence’ Billy ‘The Fish’ Lincoln (Michael Gambon going happily over-the-top). Using drilling techniques reminiscent of Sexy Beast (which starred Winstone), this formidable crew of pensioners manage to pull it all off, despite the fact that Terry suffers badly from diabetes, John is very deaf and keeps dozing off, Danny is supposedly overweight (although Ray’s skinnier than usual) and Carl has serious bowel problems.

However, this is no Ocean’s 11 (Reader’s Six?), and soon they’re turning on each other and the police are closing in, making it feel rather more like a London Fellas or even Reservoir Geezers. And while the gents are all pretty good, it’s Broadbent who steals it, as his standard sweetly dotty persona is eventually replaced by some authentic nastiness.

Granted, it is pretty hard to fault any movie with a cast like that, and one that respectfully tips its hat to the long and storied careers of Caine, Broadbent, Courtenay and Winstone (and, to a lesser extent, Gambon and amiable odd-man-out Whitehouse), but this still frequently feels more than a bit off. But, then again, you’d have to be a right berk to get too bleeding upset about it, orright?

King of Thieves is in cinemas from February 28

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