There are a great number of cinematic obstacles that Ronnie Thompson’s The Hatton Garden Job utterly fails to navigate in the process of transforming 2015’s so-called ‘largest burglary in English legal history’ into a caper-y heist romp for the big screen. First and foremost is that common issue of how to stir in the audience a sense tension and intrigue within a story that’s outcome lingers so freshly in the memory. Furthermore, how does said film deal with the gaps for a news event in which the detail remains still shrouded in mystery? Finally, of course, there remains the problem of how to make twenty minutes of drilling remotely engaging.
The Hatton Garden Job answers as follows: you don’t; a daft and underdeveloped subplot, involving unconvincing, continental mobsters; and, again, you don’t. The result is an intrinsically tedious waste of time, talent and money. Miss. Miss. Miss. Drill. Drill. Drill.
The attraction of the Hatton Garden safe deposit theft story to filmmakers is a clear one, emerging from the buzz of public interest that arose from the event. It was not so much the scale of the heist that ensured its status as water-cooler worthy, but the real-life Ealing comedy feel to the whole affair. In a situation straight from the fifties (or an episode of Hustle c.2007), the crime was masterminded and executed by four geriatrics and their three, similarly matured, accomplices. Here, Larry Lamb, Phil Daniels, David Calder and Clive Russell play the burglar Williams; with the addition of Matthew Goode, as their fictionalised, younger, ringleader and Joely Richardson as, Hungarian mafiaeaste, Erzebet Zslondos. Presumably, the latter pair were drafted in to help glamourise an otherwise sparse arrangement.
It would, however, seem that Thompson took his protagonist’s (twice repeated) mantra: ’slow and steady wins the race’, to heart in his script and direction alike. Goode, delivering a morosely eulogic voiceover throughout, looks thoroughly bored, whilst Richardson struggles to muster even the slightest hint of intimidation, through an embarrassingly non-specific ‘European’ accent. Hungarian? Romanian? Well…certainly romanianing somewhere in that region. To her credit, Richardson’s preposterous vocality represents the closest that The Hatton Garden Job comes to actually raising a laugh, with actual gags so lame that even the cast seem to give up pretending to chortle at. ‘We don’t want to find ourselves down there with just our limp dicks in our hands,’ says Lamb, ‘Limp dicks? Speak for yourself’ quips Daniels in response. The ‘dicks’ aren’t the only thing limp in the scene. It’s not banter, it’s just bad.
Similarly lumpen would be the rudimentary plot itself. The first half sees Goode released from prison, recruit Barry (Lamb), Danny (Daniels), Terry (Calder) and Kenny (Russell) to help feed his greed, and proceed to meticulously plan out the crime that will make them millionaires (this time next year Rodney…). The actual Job is finally carried out about forty-five minutes/five hours in. Hereafter, within a sparse, grey Hatton Garden basement, the film sees its quintet industrially drill their way into another sparse, grey Hatton Garden basement, albeit the one with the actual safe deposit boxes.
Aside from being just plain dull, The Hatton Garden Job also attains an outstanding degree of derivation. Whilst montages, dramatic twists and a dismal soundtrack (part-Muzak, part-bland filler tracks) all feel woefully familiar, swipe and jump-cuts are nicked straight from Guy Ritchie’s back catalogue. Heck, they’ve even the audacity to use slow motion effects! Slow motion! This, in a film that feels like it reached editing in the form of about forty minutes of footage, which was then dragged out to stretch it to a feature length. The aim might have been Snatch but the bullseye has more in common with later-years Last of the Summer Wine. Any warmth you feel towards the characters is a deception, you’re actually just remembering all the times you saw them giving better. There’s a moment after Lamb’s Barry has suffered a heart attack in which he’s given some pills – and I quote – to ’liven [him] up and ease the pain’. Was there not enough to go round..?
At the end of the day, The Hatton Garden Job isn’t bad for any fundamentally offensive reason, it’s just very, very boring and more than a little depressing. Forty minutes shorter and broadcast on the television, they could have had something to pass the time with. Instead, it’s basically just drilling.