We’ve all known Tom Hardy is a brilliant actor. In the overrated Locke, it’s just him in a car the entire movie and he’s mesmerizing. This is the opposite of that — it’s not one Hardy, but two. He plays the real-life ‘60s Kray twins.
He’s played menacing real-life criminals before (in the much better Bronson), and he’s certainly a thrill to watch in this. Yet early on, I felt like I was watching a guy swipe material from Goodfellas to make his own gangster flick. The voice-over narration from Emily Browning, being the main thing.
Her character is poorly written, and it’s a shame that writer/director Brian Helgeland (he won an Oscar writing L.A. Confidential, and last did the Jackie Robinson bio-pic 42) felt her story arc would be more interesting than the brothers. It’s given way too much time.
Reggie Kray is the smart (I’m using that term loosely) one of the two. He’s also suave, and makes all the deals.
Ronnie Kray, with glasses, is the muscle. He’s also the psycho. That means he’s the wild card that Reggie always has to reign in, and some of the ways he does that are interesting. Ronnie is also gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that…well, until he meets an Italian gangster, played wonderfully understated by Chazz Palmenteri). The bigger problem is he doesn’t like his brother courting Frances (Browning), and really…he just doesn’t like anything (but cigars and “Italian and Greek boys.”). His mumbling and thick accent were a bit annoying at first, but you quickly get into watching this cray-cray character (get it?).
The look of East End London was fascinating, and cinematographer Dick Pope does his usual great job. The soundtrack was a bit disappointing. They use too many ‘60s songs we’ve heard in previous films (Green Onions, I’m Into Something Good), although it was wonderful to hear Duffy (where has she gone?) in many tunes.
The score by Carter Burwell is plodding and doesn’t seem to fit the time period very well.
The movie started out as the standard gangster stuff, but it quickly won me over (until it lost me in the 3rd act). You see Reggie saunter into a club he owns, and the few cliches (everyone knows him and kisses his butt). Yet we see all sides of his character in a few quick scenes at that club. He’s being romantic one moment; calm when dealing with a problem, and then crazy. You realize this is going to be an interesting ride. And most of the time it is. You’re never bored, and there are a few moments of comic relief that work nicely.
It’s unfortunate that so much time is devoted to a love story that doesn’t work. It’s also a shame that you stop caring about Reggie. Sure, an argument can be made about this being yet another movie that glorifies gangsters, but come on. When we watch Goodfellas, it’s so much more fun to root for Ray Liotta’s character. It’s also so much more fun to watch Joe Pesci acting crazy in that film. You see moments where Robert De Niro tries to talk sense into him. You see other moments where Pesci tries not to lose his temper. It all makes for a brilliant film (which I still contend is better than Godfather). If Helgeland wanted to borrow this much from Martin — it would’ve been nice if he would’ve given more interesting story arcs to the characters he introduces us to. It’s a shame he didn’t, because a better script would’ve easily scored Hardy an Oscar nomination for this (although I’m not sure if he’d get nominated for “best actor” for his portrayal of Reggie Kray, or “best supporting” actor for his portrayal of Ronald Kray).
Instead, when it’s all over, you feel as it was just a bit gimmicky.
I thought about Jeremy Irons playing twin brothers in Dead Ringers…and remember being disappointed in that film, too. This movie got repetitive and needed to be 30 minutes shorter.
It’s entertaining, and if you head to the Landmark to see it, you probably won’t be disappointed.
I’m giving it 2 ½ stars out of 5.