Yet King Of Thieves, a caper based on the 2015 Hatton Garden raid, ends up telling a familiar tale about a plucky outsider who is in over his head.
The heist saw 77-year-old career criminal Brian Reader (here played by Sir Michael Caine) assemble a gang of veteran thieves (Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse and Ray Winstone) along with a younger inside man (Charlie Cox) to pull off one of the biggest thefts in British history.
The target was a Hatton Garden safe deposit storage unit and the crime was astonishingly easy. The gang simply used a key to access the building over the Easter weekend. And instead of blowing the door off the vault, they drilled a big hole in the wall.
This is the second film about the raid to get a theatrical release and it feels more authentic than last year’s The Hatton Garden Job. Here the robbery is chaotic, the criminals are nasty and self-serving and the locations chime with the facts of the court case rather than cockney crime clichés.
NO HONOUR AMONG THIEVES: Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse, Ray Winstone
The gang live in big piles in the Home Counties and plot their crime in an Islington gastropub instead of a grimy East End boozer. But I suspect it was Marsh’s attempt to add an authentic edge to the glossy crime caper that was his undoing.
On some level we need to root for the old rogues but you sense that Marsh, who won his Oscar with the documentary Man On Wire, thought we wouldn’t like what we found if he let us inside their heads.
Unable to create sympathy without sacrificing authenticity, he tries to win us over with broad comedy.
We are introduced to the gang at a wake held for Reader’s wife. As guests line up solemnly to pay their respects, the thieves swear loudly and reminisce fondly
ON THE MONEY: Stars of Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asian (Cert 12A, 121mins) – This US smash hit has an entirely Asian cast so it has been hailed as a sign of a more progressive, inclusive Hollywood. But this fluffy romcom offers a very familiar form of entertainment.
Our heroine is Rachel (Constance Wu), a beautiful Chinese-American who somehow has no idea her dashing Chinese-Singaporean boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) is the heir to one of the world’s biggest property empires. Rachel, on the other hand, is a lowly professor of economics at one of America’s top universities.
That doesn’t cut it with Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) who wants him to marry a fellow billionaire’s daughter. Rachel discovers Nick’s wealth when he invites her to Singapore for a family wedding. Can she keep her man and still get her hands on his money? Who cares?
Director Jon M Chu’s film brings the wealth porn of Dallas and Dynasty back with a bang. He spends so long lingering over designer dresses, jewellery and gorgeous interiors that he almost forgets the Cinderella plot. There is a smattering of witty lines.
As Peik Lin, Awkwafina makes a decent fist of the quirky best friend role and Rachel makes an amusing trip to the home of Peik Lin’s mother, who proudly describes her home as “like Versailles with Donald Trump bathrooms”.
It is telling that in a film obsessed with wealth and status, the joke is that her mother lacks the money or taste of billionaire Eleanor. Here the thrills come from seeing a bachelor party on a freighter packed with Miss World contestants.
If that doesn’t float your boat, how about a hen night featuring a trolley dash in a designer boutique? For the price of admission, you can have tickets to both.
The Rider (Cert 15, 103mins) – The line that separates drama from documentary has never been thinner than in this striking modern-day western.
This beautifully shot art-house drama tells the story of Brady Blackburn, an up-and-coming rodeo star and horse trainer from South Dakota who is forced to give up both jobs when he is thrown from a horse and suffers a debilitating brain injury.
The story is loosely based on the life of Brady Jandreau, the actor who plays Blackburn. Director Chloé Zhao’s idea is clever one.
Cast real people as your characters and the film will have a powerful feeling of authenticity. This pays off in two fascinating sequences. In one we see Brady break a wild horse. This is something that Jandreau casually did on set when he came across an animal on location.
Zhao let her camera run and it’s fascinating to witness the beast slowly fall under his spell. In another touching moment, we see Brady with his best friend Lane, a disabled former bull rider played by Jandreau’s disabled best friend Lane.
The scene is so moving that you know neither man is acting. But there is nothing here that approaches a conventional plot so the pace can feel slow. It is a memorable film but the story feels a little thinly spread.
The Predator (Cert 15, 107mins) – He has been making regular sorties into our cinemas for 30 years but this fussy reboot may have finally put an end to the world’s toughest alien.
In this fourth instalment of the sci-fi action series, director Shane Black gives us more monsters, more heroes, more subplots and less entertainment.
When two space ships packed with aliens land on Earth, it falls upon Olivia Munn’s biologist, Boyd Holbrook’s army sniper and a coachload of mentally ill veteran soldiers to fight them off.
But the action scenes are forgettable, the mythology is confusing and the bad taste comedy is hopelessly off-target.
LEGEND: Harry Dean Stanton, right, in Lucky
Lucky (Cert 15, 88mins) – He was so great at playing quirky characters that the late Harry Dean Stanton wasn’t offered a lot of leading roles. But director John Carroll Lynch made sure he took his bow in this lovely, touching indie drama.
Lucky is Stanton’s first lead since 1984’s Paris, Texas and was shot a couple of years before he died last September at the age of 91. He plays a cranky war veteran who lives in a sun-drenched desert town and, like lot of people his age, structures his life around little rituals.
In the morning he chain-smokes while doing yoga before heading to his local diner to tackle the crossword and shoot the breeze with chef Joe (Barry Shabaka Henley) and waitress Loretta (Yvonne Huff). He also goes to his favourite bar to drink and bicker with owner Elaine (Beth Grant).
Their arguments are witty and refreshingly unsentimental. When Lucky takes a tumble at home, the film changes gear from quirky comedy to a rumination on mortality and the power of friendship. It is a perfectly pitched swansong for one of America’s greatest film actors.