REVIEW: King Of Thieves

Year: 2018
Directed by: James Marsh
Cast: Michael Caine, Paul Whitehouse, Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon

Written by Cameron Frew

Geriatric Lock Stock.

The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Box Robbery (there’s a mouthful) is an absolutely incredible story, the kind of tale in today’s age you’d expect to have taken place back in the old days. But, it was in 2015 when a group of rowdy old geezers took the world by storm, carrying off what’s been dubbed ‘the largest robbery in British history’, stealing money and jewellery estimated to be worth over £200 million. Quite adequate footing for a feature film adaptation, that’s for sure. Who better to cast than Michael Caine as the group’s charming yet nefarious leader, Brian Reader, too? There’s a lot of fantastic workers behind the project; the director, James Marsh, has shown his competence in the brilliant Theory of Everything and the vastly underrated, real-life heist-of-sorts documentary, Man On Wire. The cinematographer, Danny Cohen, honed his visual glimmer on Les Miserables and IT. But, as you watch King Of Thieves, you realise that, albeit the film is thoroughly competent, it needed a touch of the Guy Ritchie charm a good British heist flick needs.

Caine’s introduction is an emotional leg sweep – we watch as he enjoys an evening out with his wife (with whom he has almost no chemistry, but whatever), with the subtext being that she is heading to hospital the next day. He implores her to have a glass of wine, “for old times’ sake”, but she politely declines. They stroll along the riverside, reminiscing about their relationship, Caine cheekily saying “that creme brûlée was like losing my virginity”. But, the night turns fatal, as she excuses herself to go to the bathroom, gently stumbling as she goes. Caine’s Reader sits solemnly with a nervous blink, and the combination of all the filmmaking elements in this one, moving little moment make for a fittingly motivating starter-for-10.

Then comes the beginning of the abrupt tonal shifts, which veer from crude, un-PC banter, to dross, boring conversations, to total sadness, often undercut with this obnoxious insistence on hip, nostalgic clips. There’s one moment towards the film’s climax this is used well, but as for the rest, it’s often very jarring and hastily edited. You can understand what they were going for as well – contrasting the shifty, elderly leads and their slow-moving robbery with the lavish, rapid, young style you’d expect in say, The Italian Job, in theory creates quite a pleasing effect, lending more weight to the gravity of how the hell these old men pulled off such a stunt. But you know when you feel the need to explain something, the execution hasn’t been entirely successful.

Alongside Caine is a randy group of ‘pensioners’, featuring the likes of Paul Whitehouse, Michael Gambon and Tom Courtenay (who puts in a tiresome shift as a poorly written snake whose only function is to supply an endless stream of double crosses). There’s also Ray Winstone, who could have been let off the leash a bit more in terms of the supposed craziness his character is famed for; there’s a little glimpse of it in his introduction with a slimy banker, but not much else. Charlie Cox is the token young man, which is a shame because in terms of the real-life story, the character he plays should be the enigmatic, captivating source of all intrigue. But his performance is extremely odd; distant but not so far off all-togetherness that you’d write him off. He never looks people in the eyes, and has a nervous puppy quality (which does make him a target for his elderly compadres later on). Comparably, his work in Daredevilis so much stronger, making this effort inexcusable.

The highlight of the piece is, without a doubt, Jim Broadbent. Not just because you get a glimpse of his peachy arse, but he’s on deliciously despicable form as the relentlessly evil and plain nasty Terry Perkins, a man forever stuck in the shadow of the superior and more naturally commanding Brian. There is a certain novelty to listening to a group of old guys exercising their potty mouths, dropping C-bombs here, there and everywhere, but only Broadbent manages to retain the amusement, and often dread in hearing it. Lines such as “I’ll cut your balls off” and “I’ll do whatever I like to you son, and you’ll enjoy it” are so hilariously out there and funnily enough, all delivered to Cox.

As for the narrative, the first half has a solid momentum to it. You know where you’re headed, so you’re on board for all the necessary, clichéd introductions to the team and the set up for the central heist. This is where the film excels more (other than the incessant quick cuts of Hatton Garden street signs as if no-one is actually paying attention). Yes there’s tropes you expect, but that’s why the heist movie, as a genre, is so popular – there’s always a thrill to seeing a plan coming together. The scoping out of the place is smugly underplayed, as Cox walks Caine through a less-than-complex technical system to get in. While the film does take great efforts to show that despite their miraculous theft, they’re very much men out of time, struggling to fit in with today’s expectancies and shifting standards (both socially and technologically, as some shoehorned gags imply). The stakes simply aren’t raised enough though – Marsh and writer Joe Penhall (whose work on The Road doesn’t exactly indicate the right fit for this type of feature) make it all seem so easy, which may have been the point. But this is where a fresh, vibrant directorial style could elevate it to something more. Look at Snatch, or Lock Stock– their tales of criminal woe are fairly standard, but the writing is biting and bold, and there’s a jazziness to each of them. But as the plot moves past the heist and into the aftermath, there’s too many tangled tones and ideas, overbearing big-band music (from Benjamin Wallfisch, no less), and just a general sense of the whole thing being nothing other than ‘okay’.

An old-fashioned heist flick with a still-game cast that tries to salvage its dullness through tediously expletive dialogue, sorely missing the brass neck of more fun, self-aware romps.

Cameron’s Verdict:

2

 

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Michael Caine Is The ‘King Of Thieves’ In First Trailer For Hatton Garden Robbery Film

“From the producers of Legend and Darkest Hour, and featuring an all-star cast of homegrown legends led by Sir Michael Caine, King of Thieves is the darkly funny, incredible true story of the Hatton Garden robbery, the most daring heist in British criminal history.”

Directed by: James Marsh

Cast: Sir Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon and Ray Winstone.

Release Date:  September 14th, 2018

Mary & the Witch’s Flower

Year: 2017
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Cast (English dub): Ruby Barnhill, Jim Broadbent, Ewen Bremner, Lynda Baron, Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Morwenna Banks, Teresa Gallagher

Written by Sarah Buddery

Now reportedly ceasing to operate, the world is mourning the loss of Japanese animation giants, Studio Ghibli. But fear not anime fans, the spirit of Ghibli lives on, in the newly formed Studio Ponoc. Founded by former Studio Ghibli lead film producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, Studio Ponoc gained the support and allegiance of several Ghibli animators and directors, including the director of their debut movie, ‘Hiromasa Yonebayashi’.

‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ continues that Ghibli tradition of taking a classic (and usually English) children’s book, and giving it their own unique and fantastical spin. Whilst I would normally insist upon watching any anime film in the original language, the English dub of ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ that I saw was perfectly adequate; in fact the quintessentially British tones of national treasures such as Jim Broadbent, totally lend themselves to this type of story.

Whilst it might initially appear to be narratively similar to Ghibli’s classic ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, it does manage to be its own film, whilst still evoking the spirit of everything that makes these Ghibli classics stand out. ‘Mary’ actually owes more of a debt to ‘Harry Potter‘, and indeed the magical school that our protagonist finds herself in is very Hogwarts-esque; it surely can’t be coincidence that the students bear the colours of red, blue, yellow, or green either!

The story itself is quite simplistic, but then again it is for kids, and whilst the charming characters and easy-to-follow story will keep the attention of the kids, the beautiful animation will capture the older viewers as well. Voiced by none other than Spud from ‘Trainspotting’ (aka Ewen Bremner), the groundskeeper Mr Flanagan is an utter delight, and the only shame being that he doesn’t get enough screen-time.

Whilst this is enjoyable fare, it never feels like it has that timeless quality of some of the Ghibli greats. It does feel like a story that has been seen before, and its childlike innocence is pleasant enough not exactly world-changing.

Still, the animation is as stunning as you would expect, and the sense of magic and wonder permeates throughout. It also has adorable cats, and that is pretty much all you could want in any film. Regardless of the quality of the voice cast, watching these films with the English dub is utter sacrilege, so do seek out the Japanese language version for the most authentic and therefore enjoyable experience. ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ is enjoyable animated fare, and a great start for the new dawn of Studio Ponoc. Will certainly be watching their future efforts with great interest!

Sarah’s Rating:

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Paddington 2

Year: 2017
Director: Paul King
Cast: Ben Whishaw Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Gambon, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Imelda Staunton. 

WRITTEN BY ABBIE EALES

The 2014 ‘Paddington’ film took everyone by surprise. Having had to recast the voice of Paddington himself when Colin Firth stepped away from the project, many of the already sceptical folk were worried that the end product might be a bit of a mess. However, it ended up being in many critics’ top ten lists of the year and Ben Whishaw’s voicing of Paddington left us all convinced he was the only man for the job. It was an absolute delight and has become a staple family favourite.

Given the joy with which the first film was met, this second outing had a lot to live up to. Luckily it more than exceeds expectations, with Paul King and Simon Farnaby’s script being both riotously funny, supremely touching and even politically savvy.

‘Paddington 2’ centres around the titular bear’s wish to find the perfect birthday present for his Aunt Lucy, who is still living out in Peru. Paddington is still living with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens and is a firmly established member of the community. Visiting Mr Gruber’s antique shop he finds a one-of-a-kind pop-up book (or popping book, as Jim Broadbent’s Gruber would have it) featuring London landmarks. However, upon discovering how much it would cost, Paddington decides to earn the money by getting a job to buy it for his favourite Aunt. Cue some hilarity involving first electric clippers and then a plastic bucket. Meanwhile a wonderful steam fair is opened nearby by Hugh Grant’s fading star, and neighbour to the Browns, Phoenix Buchanan. Plans for Paddington’s perfect present are then scuppered when the ‘popping book’ is stolen, leading to Paddington and the Browns working to unmask the thief.

Whishaw yet again turns in a wonderful vocal performance as Paddington, the kind-hearted bear who believes that being kind can make the world a better place. You completely fall in love with his vulnerability and optimism, ending up really rooting for the little bear.

The whole Brown family are warm and a little nuts, with more wonderful performances by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins. Hugh Grant is magnificently unhinged as fading star Buchanan, bringing a little Machiavellian menace to his music hall shenanigans.

The production design is wonderful, from an incredible sequence featuring the ‘popping book’ itself to the Brown’s fabulous house and design of Windsor Gardens, with a less-twee Wes Anderson feel to it all.

The supporting cast are all universally incredible, with some of British comedy’s biggest names appearing in tiny, but brilliant, roles. Paul King’s previous life as director of ‘The Mighty Boosh’ really shows again, as he has an absolutely brilliant grasp of comedy timing and lends the whole affair a wonderfully off-kilter feel.

‘Paddington 2’ is as whimsical and joyous as the first film, with some genuinely hilarious moments of comedy and beautifully drawn characters. It balances this with some really great action sequences and some moments of real peril for Paddington and the Browns, which will have you both on the edge of your seat and possible shedding a tear.

It’s a film that will delight children and adults alike and will undoubtedly be a firm festive favourite for many years to come.

ABBIE’S RATING: 9.5 OUT OF 10

 

Paddington Is On A Mission In New ‘Paddington 2’ Trailer

“The much-anticipated sequel to the worldwide hit family film finds Paddington happily settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, where he has become a popular member of the community, spreading joy and marmalade wherever he goes. While searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s hundredth birthday, Paddington spots a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it. But when the book is stolen, it’s up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief…”

Directed By: Paul King
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldie, Ben Miller, Jim Broadbent
Release Date: 10th November 2017