In 2015, approximately £200 million worth of jewelry and cash vanished from a London safe used by city goldsmiths. It was later revealed that the culprits were a gang of elderly robbers, so experienced they remember when the Beatles performed and often ride public transport for free.
Kings of Thieves initially appears to be the kind of film one ought to praise automatically. Boasting a cast of acting legends who still mostly deliver, the film also occasionally aims for fresh directorial vision. But it soon becomes apparent that these efforts fall short. Marsh emphasizes the advanced age of the thieves, a decision that feels more awkward than innovative. One moment, he portrays his protagonists as endearing elderly men too deaf to hear alarms and prone to dozing off during stakeouts; minutes later, he morphs them into menacing gangsters akin to Scorsese’s mobsters.
Regrettably, this juxtaposition of light-hearted British comedy and serious crime drama fails miserably. The jokes are painfully predictable and felt as if they were being told by an elderly man going on at length—I found myself smiling merely to be polite. Even worse are the attempts to portray the characters as menacing gangsters. When an 85-year-old Michael Caine sternly threatens to turn someone into “meatballs,” or when Jim Broadbent, nearing 70, brandishes a chair menacingly, the outcome is more comical than threatening.
Moreover, Marsh doesn’t bring anything new to the heist genre. The film follows the usual pattern: planning the robbery, executing it, and then facing the challenges of dividing the loot and evading the police. We’ve seen it all before, and any attempt to introduce farcical elements falls flat. Kings of Thieves is not funny enough to qualify as a comedy, yet lacks the tension needed for a thriller. By the halfway point, you’ll find yourself waiting for a predictable conclusion while enduring time with characters who, despite being portrayed by skilled actors, are neither likable nor interesting.
Marsh sporadically inserts a clever or amusing idea, like the use of industrial cameras or a wordless subplot involving the police. However, Kings of Thieves ultimately serves as a prototype of a British film that’s both conservative and dull, lacking any semblance of style or spark. While the veteran actors may have enjoyed their time on set, I found little enjoyment in my time at the cinema.
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