Aaaaaahhhh, the headlines were glorious, weren’t they? The biggest heist in British history: shit-tons of moolah, as the young folk say, was nabbed from the deepest, darkest vault in the Hatton Garden district of London. The jewellery quarter was caught napping and safety deposit boxes of the offensively be-diamonded were emptied over a bank holiday. And best of all? It was a close-knit group of comedy grandpas whodunnit.
They made a film!
Steve brought in The Hatton Garden Job, saying it was flat, dull, a distortion of the version he’d seen in the Guardian, but leavened by some ancient British character actors silver-foxing it as crims. He wasn’t wrong.
Old Jack slapped it in the TV room DVD player alongside Mad Maud. She slavered throughout. I put this down to a migraine caused by the director Ronnie Thompson‘s sudden pauses, jittery zooms, slow-mo, rips around corners and other Guy Ritchie tricks to make this a trendy picture from 1999. Christ, the first ten minutes were so dizzying she needed an ice-pack and three Snickers to get the sight back in her right eye. But then it was onto drooling over Larry Lamb. “Men are thinking-feeling human beings, not objects,” I said with resigned futility as she tongued the screen.
What grates, now I think about it, is that this story was about some old men going for it one last time and pulling off a criminal daydream. Old men. Now, you may think of them as scum of the earth doing the dreadful for themselves. And you’d be right. But the story belonged to them and the film embellished it in the worst possible way:
- XXX (that’s his name in the credits), the fictional star of the piece, played by the Londonishly stary Matthew Goode, is young.
- Erzebet, the fictional Hungarian gangland caricature made tolerable by the heartbreakingly cold yet cleavagey Joely Richardson, is young.
- Even Frank (Mark Harris), the fictional bent ex-copper with specific demands of XXX, is fucking young!
This film is a lie!!!
The action is also properly dull. You know the routine: the team prep, revealing character points along the way (here we have diabetic, fainty and stupid…), they break into the building with secret codes and…spend half the film drilling through a concrete wall. Sometimes they stop the drill; sometimes they swap running it; once they panic when it breaks; another time they take a rest and it sits there, dripping. There are moments of tension – someone peaks through a letterbox; Larry Lamb falls over – but, fucking hell. This is like The Big Short stopping for an hour to sit with the guy writing the spreadsheet.
But I did like it.
I diverted Mad Maud by putting shockingly…yes, shockingly bad 1981 BBC soap Triangle on the iPad, pausing on a young Larry Lamb scene, and throwing it into the corridor. She yapped after it and disappeared for some alone time. Old Jack turned back to glorious British character acting overcoming a script.
Phil Daniels, a youthful 60 this year, scowls and growls. Clive Russell watches from a white van and plays comically slow-witted without dipping into full-on savant. Larry Lamb gives a lean reading of an ill man with all the wits. And – best of all – David Calder carries off affronted, sensitive and rumbunctiously cunning. Oh, to still be here when they need nursing care and a home. What fun we’d have: terrifying the visitors, flirting with the nurses, breaking into the kitchen at midnight for the quality chocolate and pizzas I know for a fact are hidden down there…and the laughs.
These gentlemen, displaced in the story by the cooly effective Goode, make the whole thing for me. Even in the flattest moments of plotless drilling, they plough the space between their lines for sympathy, comedy and warmth. Mostly blessed comedy. If they gave out ensemble prizes at the BAFTAs, this lot would have won something for salvaging this film.
If you’re a bit bored and fancy something full of sparkly grandpas, then bung on The Hatton Garden Job (DVD… iTunes…). The triumph of the old! It’s testimony to what our generation can do.
They all got nicked a month later.