As a chance to see a formidable turn by the enduring Michael Caine, as well as equally fine work by such other English acting veterans as Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay and Ray Winstone, “King of Thieves” is worth a look. But as a pulse-pounding crime caper, the film, based on one of Britain’s biggest heists, leaves something to be desired.
Still, this retelling of the 2015 robbery of millions worth of cash, gold and jewels from London’s Hatton Garden Safe Deposit by a gang of irascible, retired career criminals — and one young bloke — is rarely dull thanks to swift pacing by director James Marsh (“Man on Wire,” “The Theory of Everything”); lots of crackling good, if decidedly foul-mouthed dialogue from writer Joe Penhall (adapting from articles in Vanity Fair and the Guardian); zippy editing by Jinx Godfrey and Nick Moore; and a jazzy, hit-strewn score.
The film’s first half covers the hasty planning and execution of the break-in by steely ringleader Brian (Caine), the sadistic Terry (Broadbent, scarily against type), deaf and dotty Kenny (Courtenay), nasty Danny (Winstone), anxious Basil (Charlie Cox) and the more peripheral Carl (Paul Whitehouse). Part two follows the no-honor-among-thieves fallout as allegiances shift and betrayals hover while authorities close in. If only this post-heist section had more tension, suspense and surprise, “King” could have been a real contender.
‘King of Thieves’
Rated: R, for language throughout.
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Playing: Starts Jan. 25, AMC Universal CityWalk; also on VOD