Director: Brian Helgeland; Main Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston, Colin Morgan, David Thewlis, ;
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).
Director: Matthew Vaughn; Main Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Jack Davenport;
Vaughn’s latest effort is a funny, tongue-in-cheek foray into the spy world, in a way, it’s a love letter to the genre and to the 007’s films of yesteryears (I’m looking at you Goldfinger!). In his world the heros are knights in shining armor who happens to be spies and gentlemen. They have mad fighting skills, ingenious (and lethal) gadgets, dapper suits and, above all, good manners. Colin Firth is Harry, a.k.a Galahad, veteran member of a secret, independent agency, and Taron Egerton is Eggsy, a young man with potentials who is recruited to fight the good fight. The two of them have a mentor-protégé relationship but there’s also the clash of different cultural backgrounds and the professional attitude versus street smarts, that, although pretty cliched, it’s still quite entertaining. While Eggsy is at the secret agent boot camp (more The Recruit than Nikita), that will decide if he is cut out to be a Kingsman, Harry is busy unravelling the mystery behind the death of his friend and colleague Lancelot (Davenport). To spice things up we get Samuel Jackson as Valentine, the villain with a crazy, ambitious plan for world domination and his faithful henchman Gazelle (Boutella): a lady in killer heels…literally! It’s almost as good as teeth capped with steel and a swimming pool full of sharks. To roundup all the usual suspects there is also Michael Caine as M… oops sorry, he is Arthur in this film (well not only in this one but he’s not a butler here) and Mark Strong as Merlin, who is half way between Q and gunnery sergeant Foley. The viewer gets a lot of action scenes, a few plot twists and some over-the-top violence, that ends up being more hilarious than disturbing, more Guy Ritchie’s style than Sam Peckinpah’s. Talking about violence, there is a scene that rivals the fight of the Bride with the Crazy 88 (Kill Bill Vol.1). Vaughn gives the audience an entertaining and fun ride and the cast, while providing solid performances, is clearly having a blast as well. In addition the combination of the opening credits with Dire Straits is pretty spectacular. Always remember: manners maketh the man. Amusing —7/10