Looking at the news reports and the detailing of the Hatton Garden Heist, it not hard to see why film producers are chomping at the bit, just to tell the story of one of the most infamous burglaries in British history. Not only that, the events have the perfect making for a conventional heist film, so that why I restudied heist films before I saw King of Thieves. In many retrospect’s King of Thieves lives up to those conventions, a lot of effort has gone into making this film feel like a classic heist film, however, the feel is all we get because underneath the surface is a hollow film that parades like its full using a stellar cast.
Needless to say, the cast isn’t something to criticize, how can you say no to the likes of Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winston and Tom Courtenay in the same film acting like tough cockney geezers? Essentially, the tough cockney demeanour is what each of their characters boils down to but for some like Jim Broadbent, their intimidation is something unexpected. I actual felt stunned by Broadbent’s powerful presence in the more intense scenes. It’s not just seasoned actors in this film, Charlie Cox plays Basil, a nervous tech-savvy teen who they need to crack the security in Hatton Gardens. His character is made fun off by his OAP accomplices because he’s not one of them both in youth and practices, Basil wears a disguise during the robbery while the others don’t, showing the character’s differences in their mindset, how a robbery should be done. I feel the people behind King of Thieves wrote Basil as not much of a sympathetic character, for one he’s cunning like the rest of the characters and alter on uses his traits to his advantage.
There’s a surprisingly a lot of profanity in King of Thieves an is the main instigator for the film’s attempts at comedy. I’m 50/50 on this because one part of me believe that it partially breaks whatever seriousness the film had, however, because it is coming out of the mouths of the talent, I can’t help but chuckle. Whether the jokes work or not, King of Thieves has at least good comedic sense in the narrative in which it plays around with these men being old and using hip replacements or heart attacks for example to manipulate character sympathy.
The film uses a lot of subtly throwbacks to the swinging sixties period where heist films were booming, and indeed King of Thieves intends to harken back to this period through a variety of film elements. However, if you were to hold this film up to a mirror, the reflection wouldn’t look the same. The most basic framework of any heist film is a three-act structure, the planning, the execution and the aftermath. King of Thieves stays true to this narrative structure, but it’s the time spend on each of these three acts I believe the film has got the wrong way around. I would rather spend a lot of time in the planning act so that we know our characters better, what motivates them to steal from Hatton Gardens, however the film decided we should spend a lot of time in the aftermath of the heist and get to know our characters there through a variety of double-crossings and issues in dividing the score.
Furthermore, what kind of heist film is this supposed to be? It’s too soft to be gritty and it’s too serious to be completely comedic. I think the filmmakers hadn’t made their mind up before production started. Both angles can work wonders for a heist film but if you’re not completely sure then its going to show in the finished film. Take a heist film like Going in Style (also starring Michael Caine), a film that also uses OAP robbers to pull off a bank heist. This film went for a complete comedic tone and because it was focused on one direction is became vastly entertaining, enough to be nominated for my most surprising film of its year. King of Thieves needed more developing time to figure out which side it would lean towards.
The main event of the piece is the execution act, the actual heist, it’s what the film is counting on to be the intrigue that makes us purchase a ticket. If a heist film can’t get this right, then it can run into all sorts of trouble later on in the aftermath act. While I have no quarrel with the sequence itself, the editing of the heist was way out of control. The film kept cutting to different angles far too often, I would understand if there was a lot of action and tension going on but the moment I spotted the editing, we hadn’t even made it to the vault door. The only saving grace of the sequence is that we got to see Ray Winston let out this victorious roar inside the vault.
This film had a rich cast with legacies attached to them, however, the legacy of King of Thieves is going to be gone once the credits have finished. This film tries to be a throwback to classic heist films, but it thinks it can do that by throwing in a bit of everything resulting in a very hollow film with an equally messy narrative, you won’t Adam and Eve how much the film tries to do. Crime doesn’t pay and neither does sloppy filmmaking.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen King of Thieves? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below
Next Time: The House with a Clock in its Walls