I had such high hopes when I walked into the cinema: London in the sixties, identical twins played by Tom Hardy, gangsters building a criminal empire in the East End… what more can a girl ask for? I was expecting Goodfellas with tea, crumpets and cockney accents but no dice, most of my dreams crushed and burned by the end of the film. The story is about the rise and fall of notorious Ronnie and Reggie Krays, how they started as street thugs, then became crime lords and finally got their just deserts. In order to better wrap up my head around this really mixed bag of a film I’ll break down my review in three parts.
The good: firstly and foremost, Tom Hardy. He’s brilliant. His portrayal of both Reggie and Ronnie is subtle, powerful and effective. With the help of a pair of glasses, some make-up and a perpetual frown, Hardy brings Ronnie to life, the most volatile and violent of the two. No glasses, soulful eyes and something between a smile and a smirk, Hardy becomes Reggie, the sensible and (occasionally) sensitive twin. I haven’t seen an actor being this convincing at playing twins since Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers. The second item on the plus column is the recreation of the locales and the feel of the period: East End and a touch of swinging London. Thirdly, Taron Egerton proves his skills as Ronnie’s boy toy, he is one to look out for. Didn’t I also mention Tom Hardy? I though I did.
The bad: the story is told from Frances Shea’s (Browning) point of view, Reggie’s girlfriend/wife. The excessive voice-over and the outsider’s (to the criminal world) perspective does not work well, keep the focus of the story too much on the personal side. For a gangster movie about famously vicious people, there’s very little carnage with the exception of a couple of lackluster confrontations. The film lacks verve and charisma, which is a pity considering the possibilities given by the source material. In addition, the viewer is supposed to sympathise with Frances but that doesn’t work very well either, Browning’s solid performance notwithstanding.
The ugly: Chazz Palminteri’s face. The plastic surgery has turned it into a wax mask and he lost his presence and menace as Italian mobster (and his ability to move his facial features).