King of Thieves – Review

Worth seeing: as a disappointingly flat retelling of one of the most audacious diamond heists of recent years
Director:James Marsh
Featuring:Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay, Ann Akin, Charlie Cox, Claire Lichie, Francesca Annis, Michael Gambon, Paul Whitehouse
Length:108 minutes
Released:14th September 2018


Brian Reader (Sir Michael Caine) is very much the guv’nor – a veteran criminal, the head of his gang and growing just a little tired of the life. In his wife’s dying breath, she urges him to go straight.

But when a young friend (Charlie Cox) comes up with a plan that he can’t resist, he rounds up the usual suspects – including tough nut Terry (Jim Broadbent), measured Kenny (Sir Tom Courtenay) and relative youngster Danny (Ray Winstone) – and plans a nice and easy diamond heist.

What could be easier than breaking into a Hatton Garden safe-deposit vault over a long Easter weekend, when there’s no-one else around to see or hear what’s going on?


Well, anyone who was paying the slightest attention to the news back in April 2015 will know that – in time-honoured fashion with such “plots” – things didn’t go to plan.

Being based on one of the most notorious burglaries in recent memory – with a bunch of old codgers drilling and climbing through the wall of a vault over the Easter Weekend – most viewers – particularly those attracted to this cast – will remember enough about what happened for there to be little tension in this heist film.

Another weakness is that such films are usually built round “loveable old rogues” but apart from Sir Michael, they weren’t even particularly likeable.

So you don’t really want to root for them – but even if you do, you’ll know there’s no point.

Then there’s the fact that the plot seems to crumble because of unusually poor planning – they hadn’t even decided what to do with the loot after the raid, for example. But this was meant to have been a gang of highly experienced, life-long criminals.

Part of the mission’s failure is down to a falling out that breeds the kind of bitter resentment you’d expect them to take to the grave, which makes the final – and don’t worry, this doesn’t spoil anything – jovial, back-slapping walk from the cells to the courtroom all the more peculiar and unconvincing.

It’s a little uneven, with some of the characters feeling like proper underworld geezers, while others come across as a comedic confections who couldn’t steal a sponge from a sleeping snake.

But it has its moments – there are plenty of decent one-liners and physical gags. But do they even belong in this film?

“What went wrong?” the gang members might have thought – and viewers might think the same; how did the retelling of one of the most audacious diamond heists in recent history end up more like a Carry On film.

The Man on Wire director James Marsh is at his best when he’s in the heist territory of his Oscar-winning documentary, but the raid forms a surprisingly small part of the film; probably more of it is spent on the police investigation, yet we never really get to know the officers we’re spending so much time with.