Michael Caine, at the age of 86, leads the cast as Brian Reader, a 76-year-old criminal mastermind who wants to have one more crack at a big-time robbery even though he is now aged and uses his senior’s card when travelling on public transport.
His fellow crew members are Terry (Jim Broadbent), a diabetic who is cantankerous and participates in the robbery with considerable difficulty; the hard-of-hearing Kenny (Tom Courtenay), who is bumbling, unreliable and disloyal; awkward alcoholic Billy the Fish (Michael Gambon), and Danny (Ray Winstone), the strongest criminal but not necessarily the smartest.
It is a stellar cast, including Charlie Cox as the only young member of the group, a man skilled in the area of technology, although he presents himself as inept, lacking nerve and socially awkward.
The actual robbery – based on a safety deposit box theft in London’s Hatton Garden in 2015 – occurs remarkably early in the film and the group appears to have pulled it off, but King of Thieves’ central characters are no longer in their prime and there is conflict, distrust and difficulties in how they divvy up the stolen goods and hide the loot.
Some of them don’t hold their nerve, and they are no match for CCTV cameras, modern surveillance and computer-assisted investigations.
There is history between the rogues – a life of crime – and the lives they lead are no longer boosted by adrenalin rushes. In fact, they are quite sad, lonely men and they have arrived at a time when they wonder what the point of life is, so perhaps one last robbery gives them a sense of meaning and purpose.
Audience members expecting King of Thieves to be an action-packed robbery thriller will be disappointed, but if you’re happy to watch a study of ageing and rugged macho gangsters not coping with the modern world, you may still find it enjoyable.