There’s certainly no honor among the aged thieves played by some of Britain’s most distinguished actors in James Marsh’s dramedy based on the 2015 burglary of London’s Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company—in terms of loot England’s largest heist to date. Already the stuff of legend that has spawned a couple of films (with another reportedly on the way), the theft has been recast, with some modifications to the record, by Joe Penhall as a vehicle for a gaggle of geriatric stars whose very presence invites nostalgia for all the pleasure they’ve provided over the years—a fact emphasized by a few inserts from their old films at the close. These stars are always a joy to watch; the pity is that the movie isn’t entirely worthy of them.
Michael Caine plays the ringleader Brian Reader, who, after the death of his wife (Francesca Annis) persuades his old comrades Terry Perkins (Jim Broadbent), Danny Jones (Ray Winstone), Kenny Collins (Tom Courtenay) and Carl Wood (Paul Whitehouse) to break out of their lethargy and go back to work, using intel provided by a wonky computer geek named Basil (Charlie Cox) to do what they do best—emptying the safety deposit room at Hatton Garden. Inevitably they bicker about details while engaging in the obligatory old-age complaints about health problems, but eventually decide to forge on, eventually engaging a befuddled fish seller named Billy (Michael Gambon) to serve as their fence.
The heist proceeds pretty much as planned, but even as it’s happening things begin to fall apart, with Reader ultimately bowing out; and when it comes down to dividing up the proceeds, animosities old and new break out. The cops, moreover, have little difficulty in identifying the perpetrators, thanks to a series of blunders made along the way, and they’re quickly taken into custody—or at least most of them are—without much difficulty.
Among the ensemble Caine and Courtenay come off best, the former because he still retains the ability to shift from avuncular to menacing with aplomb, and the latter because Kenny, as the most milquetoasty of the bunch, fits him like a glove. Winstone, meanwhile, is playing his usual rough shtick, Broadbent’s attempt to convey a psychopathic ability to shift into threatening mode doesn’t convince, and Gambon overdoes the dementia routine. Cox is so bland as to make little impression, one way or the other.
Marsh tries to invigorate what’s essentially a rather rote piece by encouraging editors Jinx Godfrey and Nick Moore to give some snap to cinematographer Danny Cohen’s visuals and overlaying the images with a soundtrack that combines a jazzily upbeat score by Benjamin Wallfisch with an array of pop tunes. All too often, though, the movie falls into a realistic mode that comes across as uninteresting, and slips back into the rhythms of its stars, meandering rather than sprinting.
“King of Thieves” occasionally sparkles like the gems the old guys steal, but that’s mostly the result of grace notes contributed by the actors. For the most part it comes across as pretty ordinary stuff, not nearly on the level of David Lowry and Robert Redford’s “The Old Man and the Gun,” in which the proceeds of the robberies might have been far smaller than here, but the cinematic rewards were more substantial.