STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
A biopic of the most infamous gangsters ever to hail from the East End of London, Ronnie and Reggie Kray (both played by Tom Hardy), who have transcended East London folklore more than any other. Opening in the early '60s, the film charts Reggie's courting of the innocuous Frances (Emily Browning), Ronnie dealing with his homosexuality in less permissive times, as well as being declared insane, and the brothers takeover of the Richardson clans grip on the local crime scene. But with dogged Detective Read (Christopher Eccleston) on their backs, and their own destructive, excessive personalities driving them to their own demise, it all leads to a shocking, brutal end for both of them respectively.
It's surprising, given the popularity of the British crime thriller and, as I already stated, the unrivalled iconic status the Kray twins have in British folklore, that since they were at the height of their infamy in the '60s, only two films have been made about their exploits, in spite of the no doubt countless crime biographies and television documentaries that must have been shown about them. The '90s film, a much smaller scale affair, had the similar conundrum of casting two actors who looked alike enough to be twins, and ended up with the Kemp brothers, who at the time were still able to ride on their popularity as being part of the recently split up Spandau Ballet. Here, being one actor playing two roles, Hardy, as acclaimed a performer as he is, risks looking silly, adopting an on screen filming style made most famous by Jean Claude Van Damme in Double Impact. But if you can get over this, the film still has much to recommend it.
Telling a true life story, and not to mention a particularly brutal and savage one, inevitably the film will contain more than its fair share of violence, which director Brian Helgeland will quite rightly say is essential to tell the story. But the trick is to show it on screen without 'glamorizing' it, which, sadly, at times, Helgeland fails to do. A particularly unflinching moment is during a hammer wielding pub attack, where the brothers (or one of them, anyway) take out some of their competitors, only set to a rock n' roll backdrop which cheers along what any decent person would find unsettling. The film in general seems consistently unsure of the tone it wants to adopt, flitting between drama, romantic, and even comedy, which it matches with the plot, which lacks any real narrative structure and just plods along, showing various antics from the Krays life without really going anywhere.
Since his double performance is the talking point, all eyes fall on Hardy, who undoubtedly fits the roles better than anyone. He creates more of an impression with Ronnie, whose drawling, rambling and softly threatening persona make him distinctive in the same way as Hardy's Bane was from The Dark Knight Rises. As Reggie, he portrays a swaggering, posturing villain to whom appearance is everything, but in all honesty no different to your standard villain from such a film. I can't think of it as any better or worse than the 1991 film when the chips are down, to be honest, and it would be nice if something more structured and smooth could come along to depict the antics of these most timeless and unduly worshipped of real life villains. ***
9 out of 15 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.