“The problem with gold is the effect it has on people. It drives them crazy.” – King of Thieves (2018)

kingthievesKing of Thieves, Dir. James Marsh, 2018, 108 mins, Amazon Prime

Don’t know why I’m even bothering to write about this one, there’s certainly better films that I’ve seen that are still waiting for a write-up, but I’d had this film on my radar ever since it was first announced in online trailers. I mean, who could resist a cast like this -Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Ray Winston, Michael Gambon- in a crime story based on real-life events one can actually recall from recent memory? A film that looks sharp and witty and very British, according to those clever marketing peeps. On paper, it should be a cracker.

Well, I finally got around to this having spotted it on Amazon Prime, but alas, it isn’t anything near as good as it ought to be. ‘Less than the sum of its parts’ would seem a very fitting summary of this clumsy effort. Regards that splendid cast – they are fine but they never feel stretched, they are clearly just coasting along, which itself seems pretty criminal, pardon the pun. Maybe Caine could get away with that kind of performance in his 1960’s pomp but he can hardly manage it now, for all his on-screen charisma. I think the most curious thing about King of Thieves, is that, for all that its supposed to be a retelling of true events, it seldom ever felt real or particularly convincing, and all the characters just feel like goofy caricatures; I suspect because it was trying to approximate the irreverent feel of The Italian Job rather than, say, something like the Sweeney television series.

Which is the root problem with this film; its a matter of tone. For a true crime story of bad guys being bad -even if they are surprisingly OLD bad guys- its played for laughs far too much for comfort. I was never entirely sure, for instance, whether I should have liked them for being endearing old codgers waxing lyrical about the good old days when they were young bastards, and hope they succeed, or hate the horrid old bastards and hope they got caught. Which is where the film gets it wrong- are these harmless old buggers having one last hurrah robbing from rich folks who somehow deserve it, or nasty old rogues who deserve to be locked away? It just seemed stuck in the middle somewhere, like it wanted it both ways, while maintaining the ill-judged tone of some light-hearted comedy. Maybe the problem with gold is that it makes film-makers crazy.


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