When the world woke up on 4th April 2015 to discover that an audacious jewellery heist had been carried out in the heart of London, nobody expected it to be the work of old age pensioners. When the age of the burglars came to light, it was all too easy to imagine the movie of events, with a star-studded cast of national treasures playing loveable cockney criminals with cheeky chappy charm and one-last-job underdog exuberance. ITV’s Hatton Garden, thankfully, is not that story, and the mini-series stretches out the astonishing bank job over four episodes with a gripping, gritty tone and a hefty dose of ugly human behaviour.
Our robbers are Terry Perkins (Timothy Spall), a career criminal in need of one last job before retirement, Brian Reader (Kenneth Cranham), the ringleader of the group who devised the operation, Kenny Collins (Alex Norton), the getaway driver with the van to transport the loot, Danny Jones (David Hayman), the muscle, and Carl (Geoff Bell), who’s brought in on the gig by his mate Danny. Together, they pull off the largest burglary in English legal history.
The crime, though, is treated as exactly that by Jeff Pope. As you’d expect from the writer of Little Boy Blue, Stan & Ollie and Philomena, Hatton Garden balances factual details with astutely observed human dynamics; the drama manages to tap into the gripping suspense of a heist flick but without losing sight of the tensions between the gang members, as each one is prepared to double-cross, suspect or deceive the others when it comes down to maximising their share. Brian, who steps back after the first attempt at the job fails, is ruthlessly pushed aside without hesitation by Terry, and even concern over the latter’s diabetes is swiftly overshadowed by just how nasty he is to the rest.
The police hang in the background at first, allowing the foolish and greedy law-breakers to hang their own nooses, both in terms of evidence and our sympathies – a tough tightrope act walked by a game, talented cast armed with a sharp, unsentimental script. Spall, in particular, is brilliantly grotesque as Perkins, his sallow-faced determination captured with in-your-face realism by director Paul Whittington (reuniting with Pope after the riveting Little Boy Blue). The result, from hiding the jewels in wheelie bins to covertly meeting on park benches, leaves you glued to our protagonists without rooting for them – and poignantly places the final emphasis on the members of the public who were victims of the whole thing. A spiky, compelling watch.
Hatton Garden is available on ITV Hub until 22nd June 2019.