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With: Michael Caine, Charlie Cox, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Ray Winstone, Michael Gambon, Paul Whitehouse, Francesca Annis
Written by: Joe Penhall, based on an article by Mark Seal
Directed by: James Marsh
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Running Time: 108
Date: 01/25/2019

King of Thieves (2019)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Artful Codgers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This Going in Style-like movie about "old codger" criminals -- based on a true story -- feels a little dry, and a little routine, but the great cast can still strike sparks enough to make it worth a look.

In King of Thieves, veteran thief Brian Reader (Michael Caine) loses his beloved wife and finds himself in an empty, quiet house. Basil (Charlie Cox), an expert with computers and alarms, approaches him about a job, robbing the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit, where millions in jewelry is kept. Brian assembles a team of old cohorts, Terry Perkins (Jim Broadbent), John Kenny Collins (Tom Courtenay), Danny Jones (Ray Winstone), and Carl Wood (Paul Whitehouse), to help him.

The job involves drilling through the concrete into the vault, which takes more than a day, but they finish the job, making it out with piles of cash and jewels. Then the backstabbing and betrayal begins, while police begin piecing together clues based on surveillance footage. Yet, for at least one member of the gang, an escape plan is set into motion.

Weirdly, director James Marsh previously made a similar heist-style movie, the electrifying documentary Man on Wire, but totally fails to re-capture that energy. Man on Wire reveled in the details of its feat of derring-do, and King of Thieves tries to do the same, but somehow silencing alarms and drilling holes just aren't very interesting. (Perhaps it's because this kind of movie is so familiar now?) Moreover, aside from Caine's ringleader, the rest of the characters are largely unappealing.

They're duplicitous in such a way that the audience may feel betrayed as well as the characters onscreen. Even so it's still somewhat enjoyable watching actors like Broadbent and Winstone at their most volatile, switching gears quickly and about-facing from likable to unlikable.

Meanwhile, Courtenay and Cox play "softer" characters and they reveal their vulnerabilities in interesting ways. In an interesting touch, old film clips of the actors as young men (Billy Liar, the original The Italian Job, etc.) are used for flashbacks, to interesting effect. Overall, if King of Thieves is just "OK," then that's probably because of so many other, similar movies stacked up next to it. Taken by itself, it's not bad, and will probably appeal to older viewers.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release comes with a DTS 5.1 audio mix and English SDH and Spanish subtitles. The picture consists of a largely dull, gray-green palette, not exactly pleasing, but perhaps intentional. Bonuses include a 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a digital copy and a batch of trailers at startup.

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