In April 2015, Londoners gawped as details emerged of a massive robbery which saw £200 million’s worth of valuables stolen from the vaults of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company. Britain’s largest-scale burglary for years (some believe ever), it certainly made for absorbing reading on the next morning’s commute. Just two years later comes this recreation of the caper. And ‘caper’ is the approach taken by director Ronnie Thompson as he tells how a handful of ageing thieves — aside from the mysterious, anonymous gang leader played by Matthew Goode — got together for an audacious swansong.
These chaps are more cuddly than Kray.
Playing like diluted Guy Ritchie spliced with The Italian Job (note the title), the film is not without charm, thanks to engaging lead performances from a roster of solid British talent, from Larry Lamb to Phil Daniels, who can do lovable-rogue banter in their sleep. Early scenes of them plotting the heist are enjoyable if not exactly fresh, several exchanges raising a smile.
Despite their best efforts, however, the film falters thanks to an inescapable fact: with little sense of peril — these chaps are more cuddly than Kray, with no intention of doing anyone harm — and the actual crime largely involving a big drill boring, and boring, and boring through concrete, it’s all a little dull. What sounded exciting at the time of actual events — when details were scant and largely up to the imagination — is curiously mundane on the screen, the closest shaves being a man having a desultory poke around out the front while the lads are mid-operation downstairs, and Lamb’s Brian Reader, in poor health from the outset, having a bit of a funny turn. Tension could have been cranked up in either of these developments, but both sequences fizzle before they’ve caught fire.
Perhaps recognising that the basic facts of the case were narratively a little thin, Thompson and fellow writers Ray Bogdanovich and Dean Lines include a sub-plot centred on Joely Richardson’s Erzebet Zslondos, the shadowy if glamorous (and, it is hinted, Eastern European) mastermind behind the original plan, and corrupt cop DCI Frank Baskin (Mark Harris). Their involvement, however, is frustratingly under-developed. There’s real interest in how all this fits together — that 2015 London could still have such a thriving underground criminal network — but again we’re given a sketch rather than anything more substantial, with promising themes abandoned almost as soon as they’ve been introduced. In keeping with the heist itself it feels like a missed opportunity.