Tuesday, March 26, 2019

King of Thieves: Michael Caine Recruits the Old Gang

They were like a real-life Going in Style, but these retirement aged crooks had sharper elbows. They also pulled off what is considered the biggest heist job in British history. This is the third film version of the unlikely Hatton Garden caper, but the first to reach our shores in any noticeable way. Crime does not pay, not even for seniors, but at least it provides a way to pass the time in James Marsh’s King of Thieves, which releases today on DVD.

Brian Reader didn’t exactly go straight, but he got out of the game relatively on top. Out of his past “known associates,” John “Kenny” Collins is somewhat comfortable, but Terry Perkins, Danny Jones, and Carl Wood are largely scuffling. When “Basil,” a socially awkward security specialist comes to Reader with a potentially lucrative score (a safety deposit company catering to gem merchants), he has no trouble recruiting his old accomplices. The question is whether the recently bereaved Reader’s heart is really in it. Just try doing him dirty and see what happens.

Details of the Hatton Garden heist are still coming to light, even at this late date. Regardless, the Rififi-esque caper business is pretty entertaining, but Joe Penhall’s screenplay focuses more on the subsequent double-crosses.

Of course, the whole point of King is watching Sir Michael Caine do his thing as Reader. He has been stealing jewels in films since before you were born, so show some respect. He’s Michael Bloomin’ Caine and he is terrific as Reader. When he gets hacked off, all that old magic comes back with a vengeance.

As usual, Ray Winstone is as compulsively watchable as ever as the brawler, Jones, while Jim Broadbent takes advantage of the opportunity to finally chew some scenery as the goonish Perkins. Tom Courtenay plays Collins as a bit of a silly duffer, but it is just embarrassing to see Michael Gambon stuck as the butt of jokes as Billy “The Fish” Lincoln, the incontinent fence. Still, there is Caine and Winstone.

Clearly, nobody better understands the appeal of this greybeard A-Team than Marsh because he openly invites nostalgia by incorporating clips from their classic street-smart swinging sixties films, most especially the original Italian Job. British pop-jazz vocalist Jamie Cullum also maintains the cool retro vibe with his groovy, brassy cover of The Killers’ “The Man.”

Harry Brown is still probably the ultimate Michael Caine film, but it is great to see him strut his way through a capery lark, more or less in the tradition of Italian Job and Silver Bears. Recommended for fans of heist movies and the accomplished cast, King of Thieves releases today (3/26) on DVD and BluRay.