Imagine they remade The Lavender Hill Mob.

But they were all “fackin’ caaaaaants!” 

And it’s not funny.

In a nutshell, that’s Man On Wire director James Marsh’s King Of Thieves, the latest, and arguably least, telling (despite its top drawer cast) of Easter 2015’s multi-million pound burglary of a Hatton Garden safety deposit vault by a motley crew of superannuated villains.

Following the death of his wife, elderly retired thief Brian Reader (Michael Caine) is tempted back into the life for, what else, one last job by young alarm expert ‘Basil’ (Daredevil’s Charlie Cox) who needs his expertise.

Recruiting a team of elderly gangsters (Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay and Paul Whitehouse), Reader and Basil mastermind the burglary of the Hatton Garden vault where fellow old villains stash their ill-gotten gains, the team tunnelling into the strong room, breaking open the deposit boxes and filling a couple of wheelie bins full of cash, bullion and diamonds before calmly making off into the night.

But despite the heist’s success, greed, paranoia, old rivalries and a incontinent, incompetent fence (Michael Gambon) cause a falling out among the thieves and attracts the attention of the rozzers…

One of the most audacious heists in living memory, 2015’s Hatton Garden burglary, with its gang of seasoned has-beens refusing to go gently into the night and almost pulling off the perfect crime in the process before their own greed and hubris destroys them, has all the ingredients for a classic crime caper. Add to that an ensemble of British acting Royalty (and that bloke from The Fast Show) and a director with a knack for telling a true story. How could it fail?

For starters, as I already mentioned, our heroes are an unrepentant shower of, well, “fackin caaaaaaants”who appear to have wandered in from the Guy Ritchie Eventide Home for Old Lags & Cockernee Geezers, in the case of Michael Gambon’s “comedy relief” fence/fish supplier quite literally wandering in and pissing in Caine’s bathroom sink. In reality the gang were seasoned villains, gangsters who’d spent decades thieving, laundering money (most notably from the infamous Brinks-Mat job), committing armed robberies and acts of violence (including, allegedly, the murder of a policeman) so it’s a bold move on the part of Marsh and screenwriter Joe Penhall to make their protagonists quite so unlikeable. Unfortunately, it’s not one that pays off, killing stone dead any sense of drama or tension. We all know the gents got caught (well, all but one…) but a better film might at least have made us care, made us root for the old codgers.

Flatly directed by Marsh, there’s little that’s cinematic about King Of Thieves, looking more like the cheapo, low-budget version of the story than any of the cheapo, low-budget versions while tonally the film is schizophrenic lurching from crime caper to thriller to comedy to drama with Caine as good as ever as the melancholy Reader, unmoored by grief, fatalistically involving himself in the doomed job because he simply has nothing better to do now has wife has gone.

As the enigmatic Basil, Cox barely registers, Gambon may genuinely just be drunk, befuddled and incontinent as the drunk, befuddled and incontinent fishmonger-cum-fence while Tom Courtenay’s doddery schemer feels like a refugee from Only Fools And Horses. Ray Winstone meanwhile once again plays Ray Winstone. Which is rather confusing when the spectacularly miscast Jim Broadbent, the gang’s resident psycho, also appears to be playing Ray Winstone. In fact, possibly the film’s finest performance comes from Paul Whitehouse as the gang’s nervy, bottle-lacking, weak link who acts convincingly scared of Broadbent’s panto rehash of Only Fools And Horses’ DCI Roy Slater.

More The Mild Bunch than The Wild Bunch, with its relentlessly jazzy score, its paint-by-numbers script, tin ear for dialogue and poor pacing, King Of Thieves is a vehicle so workmanlike it should have JCB painted on the side.

Movie Review: King Of Thieves
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