No f-ing honour among f-ing thieves.
What a cast! Micheal Caine; Jim Broadbent; Tom Courtenay; Michael Gambon; Ray Winstone; Paul Whitehouse…. Just one look at the poster and you think yes, Yes, YES! But would this be a case where my expectations would be dashed?
Having seen the film at a preview showing last night, I’m pleased to say no, it’s not. I was very much entertained.
The film tells the ridiculous true story of the “over the hill gang” – the bunch of largely pensioner-age criminals who successfully extracted what was definitely £14 million – and could have been up to £200 million – of goodies from a vault in London’s Hatton Gardens jewellery district over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in 2015. The gang is led by the “king of thieves” – Brian (Michael Caine) – highly regarded as an ‘elder statesman’ among the London criminal scene.
Did you see Mark Kermode‘s excellent “Secrets of Cinema” series on the BBC? (If not, seek it out on a catch-up service!) The first of the series deconstructs the “Heist” movie, showing how such movies track the preparation, the execution and the progressive unravelling of the wicked scheme, typically through internal strife among the gang itself. (Pretty much as you would assume happens most of the time in real life!) Kermode points out that such movies play with our emotion in secretly wishing the bad ‘uns to succeed in doing something we would never have the bottle to ‘step out of line’ to do. “King of Thieves” nicely follows this well trodden story-arc, but – for me – does it with significantly greater style than the norm.
Yes, it’s very much a “Brit-flick”, and I’m not sure how it will play outside of the UK. But the film’s script, penned by Joe Penhall (“The Road”, “Enduring Love”), plays beautifully to the extreme age of its cast – the average age of the actors playing the gang is over 67… and that includes the 35-year old Charlie “Stardust” Cox (who is actually very good as the young foil for the older blades)! There is lots of laugh-out-loud dialogue relating to bodily deficiencies and ailments and the tendencies of old-folk to nod off at inconvenient times! However, its not very deep stuff, giving little background to the characters. And if you are of a sensitive disposition, the language used in the film is pretty extreme: F-bombs and C-bombs are dropped in every other sentence.
The film is delivered with visual style by “The Theory of Everything” director James Marsh. He cleverly reflects that all of the older leads have past records: the film nicely interweaving tiny snippets of past British crime movies to illustrate the career exploits of the now-creaky old folks. (If in the epilepsy-inducing opening titles you thought you caught a subliminal shot of the gold from “The Italian Job” – the superior 1969 version – then you were right!) As well as “The Italian Job”, the snippets also includes “The Lavender Hill Mob” and (if I’m not mistaken) the late George Sewell in “Robbery”.
It’s all delivered to a deafeningly intrusive – but in a good way – jazz-style soundtrack by the continually up-and-coming Benjamin Wallfisch.
As in the recent “The Children Act”, it is the acting of the senior leads that makes the film fly for me. Caine is just MAGNIFICENT, at the age of 85 with the same screen presence he had (as featured) stepping out of that prison in “The Italian Job”; Winstone is as good as ever in playing a menacing thug, and even gets to do a Michael Caine impression!; Gambon is hilarious as the weak-bladdered “Billy the Fish”. But it is Broadbent that really impresses: he generally appears in films as a genial but slightly ditzy old gent in films like the “Potter” series; “Paddington” and “Bridget Jones“. While he has played borderline darker roles (“The Lady in the Van” for example), he rarely goes full “Sexy Beast” evil…. but here he is borderline psycho and displays blistering form. A head-to-head unblinking confrontation between Broadbent and Caine is a high-point in the whole film… just electrifying. I’d love to see BAFTA nominations for them both in Acting/Supporting Acting categories.
In summary, it’s a sweary but stylishly-executed heist movie that has enough humour to thoroughly entertain this cinema-goer. The film is on general release in the UK from September 14th and comes with my recommendation.
Fad Rating: FFFF.