King of Thieves Review

Cast: Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox

Director: James Marsh


For those of you in the UK, King of Thieves was theatrically released towards the end of 2018 and seems to have done fairly well at the box office.  In the US, King of Thieves was relegated to a January on-demand release.  Initially I didn’t know why this was the case since there’s probably an audience for a heist thriller with Michael Caine in it, but after watching King of Thieves, I completely understand why this did not get an American theatrical run.  What could have potentially been an interesting and captivating heist movie with strong performances by actors like Caine ends up being a generic, by-the-books movie that almost everyone can see coming before it happens.

The film follows Brian Reader (Caine), a former thief whose wife has recently passed away.  When he gets the itch to pull off one more heist, he recruits a group of fellow cons to run this scheme with him and make off with millions of pounds in jewels and money.  As their mission progresses, distrust is sown into the group as the power of greed takes over and makes members of the team act less rationally than before. With British intelligence on their tracks and millions of pounds at their disposal, if the group doesn’t work together, they could spend the rest of their lives in jail instead of spending the spoils of the crime.  Of the cast, Caine and Cox are really the only two performances that stand out as something potentially special.  Caine obviously has quite the history of strong performances and it doesn’t matter what type of movie he’s in, he’ll always provide the best performance and set the tone for the rest of the film.  Caine’s performance here is definitely needed, as his team members tend to be combative and aggressive when discussing their potential next move while Brian is very cool and calculated based on his experience stealing for most of his life.  Cox on the other hand plays Michael Seed, the only member of the team that isn’t a senior citizen and this difference helps him stand out among the crew.  While his age allows him to bring certain skills to the team that the rest of the older members couldn’t possibly have, some of the more cruel members take advantage of his naivete and use it to their advantage. Taking into account the lack of younger actors in this film, Cox brought a nice balance to the movie that was desperately needed.  Outside of these performances, the story is pretty bland for a premise as interesting as this one.  When you think of the great heist movies, the elements traditionally associated with successful films in the genre are the combination of a suspenseful heist and some source of drama that keeps the audience enticed.  Since the heist is being carried out by older men, there is certain meticulous pace at which the movie plays out with.  While other heist movies can benefit from a slower pace to help draw out the tension, in this case there’s not a whole lot of real tension, so the pace just feels sluggish without any real payoff.  To top this off, all of the drama comes from the group dynamics and none of the suspenseful moments are anything that we haven’t seen done in more well-received movies.  With this being a movie about older criminals who committed a real-life crime, there was the potential to make a truly unique heist movie based on the circumstances surrounding these events. Instead, King of Thieves plays it safe for 108 minutes and doesn’t live up to its potential.

Overall, King of Thieves had the potential to be an entertaining movie, especially with a talented director like Marsh at the helm, but the screenplay was just too weak to support the story, especially since we can look up the result of the real life events before watching the film.  This movie should introduce something new to what we can read in the news, but it never capitalizes on the unique scenario to make anything really exciting.  It’s a shame, because based on who was involved in King of Thieves, we could’ve ended up with a pretty good movie, but instead we ended up with a thriller that refused to provide any unique thrills and played it safer than the crooks it featured.

Overall Score: 4/10

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