When it comes to the history of British crime The Kray Twins stand head and shoulders above the rest. The notoriously dangerous cockney gangsters run a string of east end clubs and protection rackets in the 1960’s, achieving tabloid notoriety and iconic status in the process.
During their rise, and inevitable fall The Krays were the most feared partnership in England and ruled over London with an iron fist. The pair, whilst ultimately amounting to nothing more than thugs and murderers have always had a certain enigma around them, something that has drawn examination time and time again.
The most famous look at their lives to date come in 1990 when, as Spandau Ballet fans will remember Martin and Gary Kemp took on the roles. This time the roles have fell into the hands of Tom Hardy who, with the help of some clever trickery is playing both Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Hardy has shown previously is he not shy when it comes to taking on the roles of British criminals, his performance as Charles Bronson in 2008 won him mass plaudits and is still arguably the finest performance of his career to date.
Here we see Hardy adapt both the weird and wonderful aspects of both brothers. Reggie, the brains behind the pair is handsome, confident and efficient, whilst Ronnie is unstable, a schizophrenic loose cannon with a penchant for wild homosexual orgies. Hardy plays both roles perfectly, with comparisons to Jeremy Irons’ performance in Dead Ringers well deserved. Whenever Hardy is sharing the screen with himself the film lights up- providing a fascinating look at the characters of both men.
In what may seem like a throwback to Goodfellas the film is narrated retrospectively by Reggie’s wife Frances (Emily Browning) who charters both the rise and the fall of the pair. However Frances becomes the proverbial third wheel in the movie as director Brian Helegland makes the questionable decision to make her romance with Reggie the movie’s main focal point. Whilst Browning is great in her role the whole love story angle proves the wrong one to take- making the film a bore when it is not focused on the Twins.
The moments of violence and the confrontations between the twins and rival gangs are few and far between and unfortunately those expecting anything approaching a real gangster movie will be sorely disappointed. This is Scorcese-lite at best.
As a period piece the film is an accomplishment, the stylised take on 1960’s London deserves a lot of credit here and I’m sure it will win itself some awards for its costume and set design. Unfortunately it looks as though these will be the only awards it will be in contention for as even Hardy will likely fall out of any sorts of award race due to the forgettable nature of the rest of the film.
Verdict: A cartoonish and too often uneven take on the lives of Britain’s most notorious criminals. Hardy excels but the film is bogged down by an excessive run time and too little focus. See if for Hardy if nothing else.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐