King of Thieves

Michael Potts | 05/03/2019

King of Thieves, for all the grandeur of its cast, is an uninspired attempt at recreating a rather extraordinary real story. It never lives up to the potential it so obviously has.


Based on the Hatton Garden safe deposit burglary of 2015, the film follows a band of criminals, all but one being old men, as they plan and execute the job which is known as largest burglary in English legal history. The leader of the team and recent widower, Brian Reader (Michael Caine), is coaxed out of retirement by Basil (Charlie Cox), a young man who has a way into the Hatton Garden deposit. Rounding up old associates Terry Perkins (Jim Broadbent), Kenny Collins (Tom Courtenay), Carl Wood (Paul Whitehouse) and Danny Jones (Ray Winstone), they pull off the heist and make off over £14 million in jewels and money. Soon enough, though, the team breaks down and begin fighting each other, all the while with the police closing in.

The scripting for King of Thieves is, ultimately, quite flat. The impact of various ‘big’ moments feels far duller than it should be. Reader, for instance, resists any initial talk of further criminality because of the wishes of his late wife. However, no sooner is the Hatton Job proposed he throws his lot in with Basil. Any sense of dilemma is given short shrift. Half of the film is focussed on the aftermath of the burglary, but for all the build-up there is little payoff in the end.

Perhaps the best executed sequence is the heist itself, with an appreciable level of tension. That being said, that tension is front ended and, given the trajectory of the film, the burglary is really nothing more than a set up for the group’s downfall. This is symptomatic of the movie’s greatest problem, that being its failure to properly utilise the assets available to it, whether that be the possibilities of the story, its characters or its actors.

Speaking of which, it is undeniable that King of Thieves has a strong cast; Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent and Michael Gambon being the most recognisable. The actors do their level best, and it’s impossible to really criticise any of them. The problem is perhaps that they are so bogged down in angry criminal slang dialogue that is little more than that, as well as a truck load of self-referential ‘old man’ jokes. Jim Broadbent manages to come across as intimidating at times, Michael Caine certainly has his moment, and Charlie Cox adds some variety, but at the end of the day they are all held back by a lacklustre story and script.


King of Thieves is in no way offensive, and it has some good moments here and there. The problem is it has nothing that really justifies its existence or, for that matter, you spending your money on it.