To celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the great acts of scrotery in British history the BBC have commissioned Chris Chibnall to bang out two feature length dramas on the Great Train Robbery – one from the villain’s POV, one from the Feds. Tonight it’s the toerags. A Robber’s Tale begins with an earlier heist from the train job mastermind Bruce Reynolds (Luke Evans). Along with future Most Wanted stars Buster Edwards (Neil Maskell), Charlie Wilson (Jack Roth) and other dipshit notables he fucks over a security van at Heathrow. It’s a precursor of the miracle of Bridego Railway Bridge that would make their names, mark their cards and ruin their lives forever.
Along with future Most Wanted stars and other dipshit notables Reynolds fucks over a security van at Heathrow.
Decked out in suits, bowler hats and twirling umbrellas they look exactly like Kenny Everett’s Angry of Mayfair businessman character. They may not be businessman but as they whack security guards around the head with coshes concealed in their brollies it’s clear they mean business. Their jubilation turns into a big fat meh when the expected £500,000 haul turns out to be a mere £62,000. At about £1m in today’s money it’s not pocket change but split multiple ways with overheads, bribes, Savile Row suits and school fees for their imaginary stockbroker’s children (details count, man) none of them are retiring on it.
But with overheads, bribes, Savile Row suits and school fees for their imaginary stockbroker’s children none of them are retiring on it.
Still and all it buys them entry into a swanky London club where a nameless sexually attractive singer (Eliza Doolittle) croons. Reynolds tells them they’re as good as any of the posh nobs here – better even. As he goes for a wazz DI Frank Williams (Robert Glenister) introduces himself and makes it very clear he knows all about the Heathrow job. “You’re not Raffles son” he tells him “You never will be. Stay in your box”.
It buys them entry into a swanky London club from while where a nameless sexually attractive singer (Eliza Doolittle) croons
That’s the worst thing you can say to a working class boy with aspiration. He may as well have said to him “Pull off the greatest heist in history son. And make sure you cripple the train driver while you’re doing it”.
“Pull off the greatest heist in history son. And make sure you cripple the train driver while you’re doing it”.
The well-trodden path of the robbery’s conception and execution is nicely handled – its familiarity making it no less thrilling. When they tot up the take it comes as a shock. £2,600,000 (£44 million, give or take, in today’s money). As the others celebrate Reynolds has an epiphany and quietly whispers to himself “it’s too much”. Yeah you can cock a snook at the Establishment but you can’t piss in their face. You got to get got. And the Establishment always get their man.
Yeah you can cock a snook at the Establishment but you can’t piss in their face. You got to get got.
Like all good caper movies it’s a mixture of one man’s vision struggling to be realised and the volatile mix of personalities pulling together for the common bad. The genius Reynolds has his work cut out managing this mob – massaging egos, barking out orders and employing Churchillian rhetoric for the numerous bumps, reverses and derailments they encounter. It’s theft as self-actualisation. The robbers are fucked as soon as they do it – victims of their own success – but you’re not human if you don’t root for them a little. Unless you’re that train driver they brained.
The verdict: My daddy was a bank robber. But he never hurt nobody. Apart from that train driver he fucked up. Yeah, that was a dick move.
Marks out of 10: 8