Sunday, 20 January 2019

King Of Thieves

Cast: Michael Caine, Charlie Cox, and Ray Winstone

Director: James Marsh  

103 minutes (15) 2018
Studio Canal Blu-ray region B
[Released 21st January]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton   

Based upon a true story of the Hatton Garden burglary that made headlines in 2015, King Of Thieves is a hugely entertaining heist movie that specifically recalls the glory days of Ealing classic comedy The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), but it’s not really much like that, at all. Despite its obvious appeal as an old boys caper, full of wrinkly blokes doddering about in search of purpose and meaning in life, its crime drama explores how elderly survivors can still exist in a treacherous London underworld through twilight years with paranoia and a history of violence. These are diamond geezers, but they're a bit wobbly on replacement hips and frequent medications, while plodding through their sixties and seventies, thanks to the ensemble cast of a lifetime.

Kenny (Tom Courtenay, The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner), Terry (Jim Broadbent, Cloud Atlas), Danny (Ray Winstone, Sexy Beast), Billy 'the fish' (Michael Gambon, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover), and Carl (Paul Whitehouse), team up with OAP widower Brian (Michael Caine, Harry Brown, Get Carter) for one last job. Lounging around in pubs, ogling waitresses, cackling and guffawing like retired soldiers when they're not swearing like jolly drunken sailors, the habitual offenders of James Marsh’s movie smartly mine a rich seam of elderly veteran and age-rage humour. They might appear harmless enough but, watch out, Brian’s got a bus pass, their gang has a deaf diabetic as look-out, and every one of them is increasingly desperate for a piss.

“In this game, there’s what you know and what you don’t know, and if you don’t even fucking know what you don’t know, you know fuck all!” Amusingly, the old men’s ace is the mysterious Basil (Charlie Cox, TV’s Daredevil), a young techie with access to keys and a basic knowledge of 21st century security. To counter the otherwise leisurely pace of this Easter weekend crime, crucial action makes use of a wholly energetic fast-cutting, from the job’s prep montage to smash ‘n’ grab drama in the safe-deposit vault, so that key events play like scenes from a typical Guy Ritchie thriller.

Apart from the relaxed presence of Caine on good form, Broadbent is doing his best psycho impression as the frighteningly volatile Terry. Far more than just a starry revision of Ronnie Thompson’s The Hatton Garden Job (aka: One Last Heist, 2017), here’s a freshly iconic take on genre themes of ‘victimless crime’, with the daring actions of widely experienced villains, winningly portrayed by a gallery of great British actors, as this highly commercial assembly of instantly recognisable faces, with careers of dazzling screen credits, clearly enjoy themselves while playing infamous rogues.

Notable use of The Killers’ song The Man, and a jazzy score link this often darkly witty modern picture to British cinema’s treasure of retro images and sounds, as some vintage clips from the likes of Billy Liar (1963), The Italian Job (1969), and Scum (1979), appear in evocative career-flashbacks as a celebratory tribute to the longevity of these stars, that linger not fade into social memory, and KOT presents its true face in the well-worn, yet not always world-weary, expressions of this amazingly impressive cast of seniors.

Disc extras:
A making-of featurette
Michael Caine interview (seven minutes)
A featurette on casting the crooks
Deleted scenes

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