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King of Thieves - Film Review

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by Marisa Quinn-Haisu (subscribe)
My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published February 21st 2019
How many old crooks does it take to crack a safe?
King of Thieves
King of Thieves tells the true story of the Hatton Garden Heist


In 2015, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company in London was burgled by a group of professional thieves who managed to break into the facility while it sat empty over the Easter Holiday weekend and make off with over 200 million in loot. The men were all experienced thieves who demonstrated exceptional skill to be able to get into the underground safe deposit area and then back out again with so many precious valuables without being caught by the authorities. The heist was so bold and so sophisticated in its execution, it stunned many, and was quickly labelled the largest burglary in English legal history. After news of the crime hit the media, speculation began about who the crooks could be. When news broke that the gang behind the job was a group of retired old men, people were surprised.

The Hatton Garden Heist was organised by Brian Reader, then aged 76, a retired crook who has been called one of Britain's most prolific thieves. Reader has been a career criminal almost his whole life and has been involved in a number of famous burglaries and crimes. He was the mastermind behind the team, later nicknamed the Diamond Wheezers, who pulled off the Hatton Garden Heist. What was Brian Reader's motivation? Was it boredom? A nostalgic last hurrah to end his life of crime? Or did he just want to prove to people that he was still the King of Thieves?

King of Thieves is a 2018 British crime film that explores the life of Brian Reader and his involvement in the Hatton Garden Heist. It was directed by James Marsh and stars Michael Caine as Brian Reader, Jim Broadbent as Terry Perkins, Tom Courtenay as John Kenny Collins, Charlie Cox as Basil, Paul Whitehouse as Carl Wood, Michael Gambon as Billy "The Fish" Lincoln and Ray Winstone as Danny Jones.



Michael Caine is excellent as Brian Reader and portrays the career criminal from a sympathetic angle. Brian Reader is an old man who has little to look forward to in retirement and keeps reminiscing about the life of crime he led when he was younger. His wife disapproves of this and makes him promise not to get into trouble again. Not wanting to disappoint her, Brian agrees. But then his wife dies and everything changes. Lonely and bored, Brian finds himself attracted to the idea of coming out of retirement and pulling off one last job just for the fun of it. He sets a target: the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company.

King of Thieves
Michael Craine stars as a retired former thief named Brian Reader


King of Thieves had a lot of superb acting talent in it but at times the movie felt a bit slow, the dialogue was a bit wooden, and some of the old man jokes were a bit predictable even if they did get a decent amount of laughter from the audience. I liked Tom Courtenay's performance of gang member John Kelly Collins, the most Grandpa like of the group, who has a habit of dozing off at inappropriate moments and likes a good cup of tea. Jim Broadbent was also very good as the vocal and at times intimidating Terry Perkins, who acted as one of the ringleaders in the group alongside Brian Reader.

King of Thieves
The Hatton Garden Heist was called largest burglary in English legal history


King of Thieves is a movie about what it is like to grow old and to move past your prime and it has an interesting message about how we view and treat the elderly. No one expected the crooks behind the Hatton Garden Heist to be a bunch of old men and that's exactly the point of the film. Despite their age, none of the Diamond Wheezers feel old, one character even says in one scene, "In my head, I still feel like I am 23."

We as a society can sometimes be quick to dismiss the elderly as useless. Brian Reader knows this, which is why he is sensitive about his age. He tells Basil, the youngest member of the group, in one scene not to look at him like he pities him for being old. And after the group gets captured and they talk about using their age as a defence, he advises them against it because he thinks it would be too patronising. He is a proud man and doesn't want to be pitied because in his mind he is and always will be the King of Thieves.

King of Thieves features an impressive line-up of British talent and will appeal to anyone who likes movies about true crime. It had moments of humour and some tense scenes, but what stood out to me were the sad moments, like when Brian pauses to stare at his wife's shoes and the flashbacks we see of the men when they were young fresh-faced crooks at the start of their criminal career.

King of Thieves will be released in Australian Cinemas on 28 February 2019.

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*Marisa Quinn-Haisu was invited as a guest
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Why? A man in his 70s who was once a famous thief puts together a crew of retired crooks with the aim of pulling off one last job to prove that they still have what it takes to pull off a massive heist.
When: King of Thieves will be released in Australian cinemas on February 28 2019
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