King of Thieves

How could they balls it up so badly? I don’t mean the robbers of the famous Hatton Garden Heist, but the film makers and actors hired for the job of recreating it.

It’s got everything you need for a decent heist movie but this film somehow bleeds all life out of it through sheer bloody laziness and clearly painful compromise.

Michael Caine seems to be taking the michael out of himself as Brian Reader, the pensioner mastermind who comes into town on his bus pass. Tom Courtenay does a hopeless cockney accent – “we’re raspberry ripples in a rub-a-dub”; Jim Broadbent, admittedly, has decent moments as a crim who might just be a hard nut; Charlie Cox is blandly useless as the electronics ‘whizz’ who can barely change a lightbulb; Paul Whitehouse looks lost on his allotment; and the sight of Ray Winstone wielding a drill serves merely to remind us how much better Sexy Beast was.

There’s a nice in-joke irony in the opening credits that the casting for this bullion bust was done by Nina Gold but after that, none of it is funny, unless the thought of Caine et al calling each other a cahhnt and telling people to faaak orf entices you.

Not much is exciting, either. The heist is barely set up so we know what’s going on; the round-up of the old gang is peremptory; the police operation is duller than an episode of Z Cars. The film never works out whose side we’re on – that of olde world cockney crims or the good old cops. There’s nothing to root for and, given this is the biggest heist in British history, the stakes feel low.

I think director James Marsh – who did Man on Wire, which was a heist movie of a sort – was going for a study of the dullness of suburban crime, all about the tawdry life of career criminals and the boredom of hiring equipment at your local DIY store, until producers came along and told him to liven it up a bit, at which point he did some choppy editing and put in some quick clips of old Brit crime capers and some shots of the actors when they were younger, as some sort of reflection on ageing and the changing times, perhaps? 

Joe Penhall’s screenplay struggles to hit any right notes, or at least in the right order – “Crooks are like boxers – first they lose their legs, then their reflexes go, then they lose their friends…” and there’s some chat about how the internet’s tricky to use and who’s got a hearing aid or diabetes.

The only thing this lot steal is two hours of my life I’ll never get back.