Disappointingly, I missed the initial few minutes of King of Thieves, which I am hoping weren't too important to the plot – I always feel discombobulated if I come into a movie even a minute after it has begun, because a lot can happen in the film-world in 60 seconds. Fortunately, the film is based upon the real-life Hatton Garden Safe Deposit burglary, which only happened in April 2015, so at least I had a memory of seeing the true story behind the film all over the news at the time.
With a cast of legendary (and dare I say aged?) actors stepping up as the thieves, it’s difficult to tell who the eponymous King of Thieves actually is, if indeed there is one. For those who don’t know the story, over the Easter weekend in 2015 the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company in
The film focuses on this geriatric aspect of the heist, really. Why wouldn’t it? It’s a remarkable focal point. I found myself quite fascinated by the actual heist, and the ways in which the film shows it being carried out; I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘How to Break into a Safe Deposit Company’ manual, but it was pretty interesting all the same. I found the banter between the many brilliant British actors (Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone) mostly funny, but with an occasionally cringe-worthy homophobic comment thrown in.
It's difficult to hang a label on what kind of film this is: Crime? Drama? Action? Comedy? Farce? (there are many references to the bodily functions of our thieves). It’s not a comedy, but it has its comedy moments. Courtenay provided most of these for me, with his brilliant performance as the seemingly hapless, totally deaf Kenny, telling each of his co-thieves exactly what he thinks they want to hear. He was certainly the character I felt was the most likeable, because, as the saying goes, 'there is no honour among thieves'. While the film may initially set itself up to be based around a warm group of old codgers, grandfatherly figures even (we see Broadbent’s character, Terry Perkins, with his daughter and granddaughter in one scene), we are quickly informed that these ‘codgers’ are all out only for themselves, using each other for their own gain.
So while there are blasts of comedic moments, with a few stifled chuckles garnered from the audience in my viewing, there are also some pretty dark dealings, where the treachery and greed of each individual in the gang are very obvious.It might be film about a heist, but not in the lighthearted vein of the Ocean’s films. These characters have some nasty sides to them. And boy, can they swear. I’d recommend it to my Mum, for the brilliant soundtrack (it has a 60s kind of vibe to it) and the stellar cast, but I’m pretty certain she’d cringe at every f-word. And there’s a C-bomb dropped at one point (I read somewhere that Caine demanded that his utterance of the C-word be cut from the film…it wasn’t).
I found it an enjoyable, interesting way to spend a couple of hours, with a sometimes too-fast edit between present-day and archive 60s footage, supposedly of the gang of thieves in their prime. It’s not glamorous, and nor should it be, but it’s almost as if the director (James Marsh, The Theory of Everything) didn’t really know what genre the film should rest with. Overall, I came out of the screening sad that I had missed the very beginning, impressed with all of the performances and with a strong desire to watch The Italian Job again.