On paper, there’s almost nothing not to love about King of Thieves‘ premise: a real-life jewel heist — England’s largest ever, no less — (nearly) pulled off by a group of gray-haired pensioners. And what better than to have them portrayed by some of the finest British film actors of the 20th century, including Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Ray Winstone, and Tom Courtenay?
But while director James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) aims for the fizzy snap of a classic crime caper, a sort of slow-rolling Ocean’s Eleven for the Centrum Silver set, Thieves feels oddly joyless — a mostly rote perp walk through the mechanics of unarmed robbery, sprinkled with occasional slapped-on signifiers of fun (wild camera angles, snazzy soundtrack, smash-cut flashbacks to Swinging London).
A still-formidable Caine is Brian, the recently widowed ringleader. Broadbent’s Terry is the resident off-kilter sociopath; Winstone, the bull-necked lothario; Courtenay, the wily, nap-prone watchman; and Gambon, a bumbling fence for the piles of gold and diamonds they’re planning to lift from the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit with the help of a younger, nimbler outlaw (Daredevil‘s Charlie Cox).
There’s some real, small pleasure in watching these old lions at work, but vintage clips that Marsh employs near the end of the men in their onscreen primes ultimately backfire — less clever cinematic wink than a bittersweet reminder of all the superior moments on their résumés. B–