top of page


The Real Cops & Robbers

average rating is 4 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Nov 5, 2022

Film Reviews
The Real Cops & Robbers
Directed by:
Mickey Cornwell
Written by:
Mickey Cornwell
Ricky Watts, Jason Hendy, William Clegg

Diving headfirst into London’s criminal underground, The Real Cops & Robbers examines the careers of Ricky Watts and Jason Hendy, two men on opposite sides of the law, and the sting operation that foiled a £862,000 heist.


Watts stars as the former career criminal, reminiscing of his days learning how to burgle, defraud and thieve under the tutelage of his father – a man notorious enough to threaten the Kray twins (this is a London crime documentary you know…). Hendy meanwhile is the meticulous and committed copper – who is desperate to bring down his unwitting rival. The men’s lives are both changed by Watts’ planned heist on an Asda – and 16 years on from the attempted robbery, the documentary organises the first ever meeting between the two on camera.


More than a blokerific, Men & Motors-style look at some proper hard geezers, The Real Cops & Robbers is an engaging look at the lives of Ricky Watts and his Walthamstow-based crime operation, and his downfall at the hands of Detective Superintendent Jason Hendy’s flying squad. The film brilliantly identifies a narrative running between the two men and their shared determination to accomplish their goals at the expense of the other. The charismatic Watts’ visceral attraction to a high-flying life of crime is detailed from his youth, whilst Hendy’s militaristic, rigid need to put him away makes them perfect antagonists.


The film’s high-point is undoubtably its dual-perspective run-down and recreation of the Asda heist. Like a real-life version of Heat (without cocaine-fuelled rants from its starring detective), Watts relives his break-in and how his gang gained access to almost a million pounds worth of supermarket takings, whilst Hendy details the police’s stake-out and arrest – and the nail-biting tension as the officers wait to see if their targets have discovered their presence. The film’s dramatic reconstructions are effective and authentic – but it is the words of Watts and Hendy that bring the real intrigue.


Whilst the robbery is the centre of the drama and action in the documentary, an intimate examination of how the heist impacted the two men’s lives away from their professions is at its heart. Watts tells the story of how his upbringing gave him little choice but to follow a life of crime. Viewers will be sympathetic to how prison changed his life – although his hint that he occasionally wonders what it would be like to try one more job is a glimpse at the man who became so notorious for avoiding the police. Hendy meanwhile made Watts his obsession, to the detriment of his own life. The men’s meeting years later is one of mutual respect – and the impish awkwardness between the master thief and the hardened detective is oddly charming in a strange way.


Production is largely strong, with director Mickey Cornwell wisely allowing the leading pair to take centre stage with their interview pieces. The recreations are effective and authentic but never overtake the film’s focus. There are some imperfections – the initial narrator’s voiceover is never really given an identity for the audience, and there could have been more variation with the music themes which become repetitive quickly.


But The Real Cops & Robbers is a worthy and entertaining feature that tells a much deeper story than just cop vs criminal. Diving into the psyche of its two fascinating lead subjects gives an emotional connection to the thrilling and daring robbery at its focus.

Watch the official trailer here:

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Documentary, Web Series
bottom of page