(New York City relrase; January 25th, 2019, Cinema Village, 22 East 12th street New York, 10003, 12:30pm ET)
"King Of Thieves"
A famous thief in his younger years, widower Brian Reader (Sir Michael Caine), 77 years of age, pulls together a band of misfit criminals to plot an unprecedented burglary at 'The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit'. The thieves, all in their 60s and 70s except for one, employ their old-school thieving skills to plan the heist over 'The Easter' holiday weekend. Posing as servicemen, they enter the deposit, neutralise the alarms, and proceed to drill a hole into the wall of the safe. Two days later, they manage to escape with allegedly over £200 million worth of stolen jewels and money. When police are called to the scene and the investigation starts, the cracks between the misfit gang members begin to show as they row over how to share the goods and become increasingly distrustful of each other. Meanwhile, the crime has become public knowledge, and a frenzy of speculations begin. As details about the crime come to light, both the British public and the media are captivated, and the investigation is followed with bated breath around the world until the criminals are eventually captured.
The oldest of the gang at 77 years of age, and described as 'The Last Of The Gentlemen Thieves,' Brian Reader is, in his day, as close to being a star as a villain can get, one of the country’s most prolific jewel thieves, involved in raids and heists totalling more than £200 million. His name is synonymous with some of the most infamous burglaries of his time. By the age of 32, Reader was among the gang of master thieves who were dubbed 'The Millionaire Moles', so called because they tunnelled into a Lloyds bank vault in London to loot 268 safe-deposit boxes in 1971. He was also associated with the Brinks-Mat Job in 1983, the gang stealing what today would be worth $145 million of gold bullion. Born and bred in South London and from humble beginnings, he's a man who, at the height of his success, enjoyed the finer things in life, expensive restaurants, winters skiing, summers yachting. He’s the guy that devised it all in the first place and figured out how to do it. He's a man of stature who earned the respect of his peers. Brian is not a wild, extrovert man, like some of the people in the criminal fraternity are larger than life characters. Brian is not like that.
Terry Perkins (Jim Broadbent) is the character that's conveyed as the most menacing and dangerous of the five strong gang, and not without merit. Perkins is a career criminal, who in 1983, on his 35th birthday, was involved in the UK's biggest-ever cash robbery, 'The Security Express' depot raid in London, in which six million pounds was stolen. Perkins was apprehended and sentenced to twenty-two years. On sentencing him, the judge called him evil and ruthless, not least because he threatened a bank employee by dousing him in petrol and shaking a box of matches at him. In a bizarre twist of fate, thirty-two years to the day after 'The Security Express' heist, and celebrating his 67th year, Perkins is boring through a wall into the vault at 'Hatton Garden'. Aged 61 at the time of the robbery, Danny Jones (Ray Winstone) has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1975, with convictions for robbery, handling stolen goods and burglary. Described as an 'eccentric 'Walter Mitty' character during the trial, Jones claimed he has supernatural powers, could read palms and would sleep in his mother's dressing gown and a fez hat. That aside, he's obsessed with crime, and spent his spare time reading about and studying famous villains. Jones is a larger than life character and that demanded a larger than life screen presence; someone who's at ease in the skin of a slightly unconventional criminal.
At 75 years of age, John Kenny Collins (Tom Courtenay) has a long string of convictions for crimes, including robbery, handling stolen goods and fraud, dating back to 1961. Described as 'wombat-thick' by his accomplices, during the trial prosecutors said he lost the plot in the weeks after the raid. Collins is the least distinguished criminal. He’s the getaway and look out man and he’s not very competent. They just sort of like him although he does put them off. Cause he’s extremely deceitful and inceptive. He’s very duplicitous. There remains the enigma that's Basil (Charlie Cox), the 5th member of the gang who's the most enigmatic; a faceless lynchpin that got away; or did he? Conspiracies continue to spiral around his identity and what fate, if any, befell him, but it's all conjecture, theory and hearsay. Basil is not a cheeky chappie. You see some real ugliness amongst him. There was a period of time when people were interested in him being the mastermind behind it all, and then that idea seemed a little bit on the nose and not quite as interesting. Now he's completely unknown, his true identity a mystery. He's the faceless piece in the puzzle, who has no past, no future. The only proof to his existence is the 'CCTV' footage from "Hatton Garden', and then his identity was disguised. The Basil character is a bit of a mystery and the film keeps it that way.
Carl Wood (Paul Whitehouse) is a trusted associate of the ringleaders, who's recruited as an extra pair of hands to pull off the heist. Whilst Carl didn’t go through with the heist, scarpering mid way through the job when the drill broke down, he was sentenced to six years for his part in the burglary. He sensed there would be problems and legged it, as did Brian Reader. If you’re half way through a job like that and the initial stages go wrong, the sensible people would leg it, so his character got out early. Carl is the second youngest of the gang, at 59, he's not without his ailments, in his case, 'Chrohn’s' disease. What with the list of ailments suffered by the other gang members, diabetes, arthritis, etc., it adds to the sense of the heist being a last hurrah. As with the gang they portray, they're all very different characters, and in this instance it's their screen heritage that lends itself so well to identifying these nuances. The characters are very matey and jokey. And they’ve known one another for a long time. But the sheer pressure of that money being available is more than they can deal with. And they do fall out because of that. Because nobody trusts anybody else. There’s a slight 'Robin Hood' romance about it, apart from the fact they're going to keep it all to themselves.
The burglary of 'The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit' vault in April 2015 has been labelled by many as the biggest burglary in English legal history. Whether that assertion is capable of proof. However, it's clear that the burglary at the heart of this case stands in a class of it's own in the scale of the ambition, the detail of the planning, the level of preparation and the organisation of the team carrying it out, and in terms of the value of the property stolen. The story of 'Hatton Garden' captivated the public, dominating the news agenda from the moment of discovery until the eventual capture and sentencing of the gang. When 'Scotland Yard' realized who was behind the burglary, they needed to build a water tight case to warrant the arrest and eventual trial of the gang, and so they started tailing the gang, tapping their phones, recording their conversations, using lip readers when they couldn’t plant listening devices. Every conversation recorded, every activity observed was filed and when the gang was eventually brought in for questioning, their interviews recorded and transcribed. It's inevitable it make it's way into popular culture.
Very old men doing very difficult, physical tasks for reasons of greed and opportunism. That’s funny. People being treacherous towards each other because they're greedy and opportunistic and people making ridiculous mistakes, as the gang do, is naturally funny. They all got caught because they made stupid mistakes, so from the start we knew it's funny, but the thing about being funny in drama is to do it as real as you can and play the truth of it. All of the actors are such superlative actors that if you get them to play the truth of it, it will be screamingly funny in places. The moment you start cueing people that this is comedy, it lets the air out of the tyres, so you've to sneak up on people and let them discover the comedy and absurdity of the situation. They're very funny to be around, so you don’t have to write a gag fest. You can keep it serious, and because they're smart they will figure out the paradoxes and the ironies. Film and TV are dominated by genre, and before you start you've to convince people what it's you're doing, is it comedy, is it drama, is it scary, is it serious, is it worthy. There’s a lot of humour and tension and the humour comes from the tension. The dynamics between the characters are quite complex, more so than most of us.
A serious subject deserves a serious approach, and yet there's a comedic element, verging on Ealing esque, to "King Of Thieves" that's difficult to ignore; a modern-day 'Lavender Hill Mob" where the heroes are rogues that one just can’t help but root a little for. These old villains decide that they’re going to do this very old fashioned crime, and they actually do it rather well, but what they don’t know, because they don’t live in the world that we live in, is that there are surveillance, cameras everywhere in London. There’s planning, execution, and aftermath. And the aftermath is often a bitter fight over the spoils. Indeed this is a case in the true story. It’s a sort of ugly back-biting, back-stabbing scenario where everyone’s turning on each other. So there’s great comedy to be had in those characters clashing. Everywhere we walk, everywhere we go, we're being filmed. And they just don’t know this. They don’t know much about the internet, they don’t know about mobile phones being tracked, so they go into this crime ignorant of the modern world. And the comedy lies somewhat in that juxtaposition between their innocence, as it would seem, and the sort of sophisticated snooping of the modern world.
It's a character-driven comedy based on a true story. It’s like a mythical story, and any story like this is bound to attract different versions. It’s irresistible as a proposition when you read the headline. When you realise that these old men have done this crime, and they’re haplessly ignorant of the modern world. There's something that "King Of Thieves" has access to however, that no other version has, and it's this that gives the film a real edge on whatever else has come before and whatever else comes after. Playing real people can offer a wealth of information for actors in order to build the layers of their characters, and with so much written about the gang, it would not be presumptuous to assume that's the case for the cast on "King Of Thieves". But criminals are, of course, shadowy figures. Their exploits may be infamous, but they remain hidden from view.
The version is definitely as close as you can get to the truth at this moment in time. And it's also emotionally, existentially and psychologically the truth. The film addresses the notion that villains who put together crimes like this are of a particular type. It takes a particular kind of psychology for a 70-year-old man to go underground for three days, smashing, drilling and hauling. It takes a certain kind of madness and determination, a kind of bent genius, to do that. The thing about a lot of villains is that they're not really socialized. The only thing they can do is that kind of crazy enterprise and they're not necessarily great at relationships. Although they're all really great friends, they do turn on each other endlessly. There’s a lot of ego involved as they jockey for position. There’s a great deal of narcissism, obsession and lack of empathy and passiveness. They really don’t have any thought at all for all the people that lost everything. There’s a blinding lack of empathy, and psychologically it’s really fascinating to examine what’s not obvious. It’s obvious that millions were stolen, but what’s not obvious is what kind of people can do that.