The crime genre has delivered some of British cinema’s greatest movies as well as a few of its biggest duds. Thankfully, the all-star King of Thieves, is more The Italian Job than North Versus South. Let’s take a look at some of the other great British crime films…
King of Thieves, which is out on Digital Download, Blu-ray and DVD now, features an all-star cast including Sir Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay and Charlie Cox and brings to cinematic life the true story of the Hatton Garden diamond heist which saw over £200 million worth of stolen jewellery and money from safety deposit boxes seized.
Reminding of Basil Dearden’s 1960 film The League of Gentlemen, which similarly featured a crew of pension-age criminals concocting a great heist, King of Thieves (which could quite easily be titled Ocean’s 80 – as in age, not number of people) goes for a British old man aesthetic over Hollywood’s all-female Ocean’s reboot. In the film, Caine plays the leader of the gang of pensioners who must endure all sorts of physical ailments to pull off one of the greatest con-jobs in history. The police thought it was a bunch of super thieves. In reality, it was a group of bored pensioners consulting how-to books to plan their heist.
The film joins a long list of impressive British crime movies including Michael Caine-starring The Italian Job and Get Carter, meaning the genre is near to this great actor’s heart. Let’s have a look at some of the best…
The Italian Job (1969) – Directed by Peter Collinson
This classic caper comedy follows British criminal Charlie Croker (Sir Michael Caine) who, having just left prison, decides to rob some gold in Italy, right under the nose of the police and the Mafia. Croker’s plan is to create a traffic jam to distract the authorities, so they can escape with the gold unnoticed. The film features the iconic Mini coopers as their getaway cars. Charlie Crocker’s line “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” is widely considered one of the most memorable lines in any film.
The Long Good Friday (1980) – Directed by John Mackenzie
Set in the late 1970s, English gangster Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins), is attempting to get into property and is about to close a very lucrative deal when a series of bombings target him and his territory. Convinced there is a traitor around him, Harold sets out to expose and destroy them in usual gangster manner. For his role, Bob Hoskins received a letter from Ronald Kray, one of the notorious Kray twin gangers, praising his performance.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – Directed by Guy Ritchie
A poker game gone wrong puts four friends in £500,000 debt with only a week left to pay it back or Eddy (Nick Moran) will be forced to hand over his father’s pub. Desperate to pay back the money, Eddy and his friends rob their neighbours after overhearing them plotting to rob a group of drug dealers. However, this causes everything to spiral out of control and the boys must try and avoid being killed. This film was both Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones’ film debuts.
Layer Cake (2004) – Directed by Matthew Vaughn
A renowned cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig) plans to take an early retirement but is asked by his boss to do two more complex jobs, including kidnapping the teenage daughter of one of their rivals (Michael Gambon) and orchestrate the shipment of pills into the city. Without knowing who he can trust he must complete these tasks without getting caught in the crossfire from a Serbian gang who are after him and the pills. It was this performance of Daniel Craig’s that got him noticed for the role of James Bond.
Sexy Beast (2000) – Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Gary ‘Gal’ Dove (Ray Winstone) is a former gangster who has made a modest amount of money from his criminal career. Happy to put his criminal ways behind him, we find him retired with his wife and close friends in the bliss of rural Spain. His idyllic life is disrupted when an old colleague, Don (Ben Kingsley), pressures Gal into doing one last job in London. Gal’s unwillingness to fall back into a life of crime ensues a battle of wills between the two men, leaving them both worse off in the end.
Get Carter (1971) – Directed by Mike Hodges
Jack Carter (Sir Michael Caine) is a cold-blooded London gangster who travels to Newcastle to arrange his brother Frank’s funeral. Sceptical of his death, Carter interrogates old colleagues and friends to find out what happened to Frank, uncovering devastating secrets and lies hidden in his seedy hometown. From there, an enraged Carter leads a bloody trail of revenge in search of Frank’s killer.
King of Thieves is out on Digital Download on 14th January, and on Blu-ray and DVD from 21st January 2019.