With so many great heist movies already in existence, many even involving the great Michael Caine (see: The Italian Job, Gambit, Get Carter), it’s a wonder that Marsh felt the need to tell a story so uncharismatic as that of Brian Reader. But he did, and the result, unfortunately, is chaos.
We’re dropped head first into the action with very little introduction to characters or concept, making it difficult to find your feet for the first act. And the fact that it’s based on a true story does nothing to clarify the chain of events portrayed here. Whether it’s the over-use of mumbled cockney rhyming slang or the mess of subplots that transpire in the ridiculously convoluted final act, it’s clear that the only ones that have any idea of what’s going on are the cast.
Luckily, there are a few moments of light comic relief in the form of Gambon and Courtenay, that do play their part to cut through some of the confusion provided by a poorly constructed timeline. But sadly these moments feel few and far between in a film interspersed with long and barely intelligible exchanges.
Come to think of it, a lot of our cast feel slightly above the lazy scripting displayed here. But despite the barely-there characterisation, Caine and Broadbent still manage to deliver relatively engaging, if not shallow, performances, with Broadbent standing out in particular with his discomforting and vitriolic portrayal of Terry Perkins.
The real problem here is that these characters are inherently charmless, and therefore any small amount of entertainment is drowned out by their unethical (and somewhat confusing) actions. Ultimately, Thieves plays out as a bit of a love letter to the heist movie genre – but, unfortunately, it’ll probably never be anything more than that.
CAST: Michael Caine, Michael Gambon, Charlie Cox, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay
DIRECTOR: James Marsh
WRITERS: Joe Penhall
SYNOPSIS: Based on a true story, a crew of retired crooks pull off one final heist in London’s Jewelry District.