Starring Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis and Taron Egerton. Written and directed by
Brian Helgeland. 131 minutes long.
Gore blimey what a luvable bunch a old rogues those Krays were! There was the loveable Reggie (Tom Hardy) the handsome, ladies man who dreams of running a successful chain of nightclub and settling down with 'is girlfriend, Frannie (Emily Browning) and then there was good ole, Ronnie (Tom Hardy) the psychotic homosexual one who dreams of invisible worms eating away his brain. Aah, which one do you root for? Well, you could choose the one who loves to take a hammer to the kneecaps, faces and chests of his rivals, when he's not shooting them point blank in the face that is, or you could go for the one who likes to rape his wife, beat her senseless and then stab a man to death in the middle of a party, blimey talk about party pooper.
Welcome to the fun world of the Krays circa the swinging 1960s and welcome to the glorious streets of East London, or Roupell and Whittlesey Street (Southbank) if you're keen to track down the locations. Here's where our two 'heroes' live and work, controlling extortion rackets, lone-sharking and whatever else can make them as minted asap and using savage violence as their weapon of choice, but don't worry, these boys love each other and their dear old mom, so they can't be all bad, can they?
Told from the point of view of Frannie, Reggie's wife, this is a greatest hits tour of the adult life of the Krays, which gives us little titbits that leave us wanting more, more information more detail, you want a sense of how their mother was able to mold them, perhaps a sense of how they rose to become so powerful, what were they like as kids? And you yearn for a glimpse into the bond that makes these boys the psychic-siamese twins they so obviously were. Instead we get the disembodied voice of a Frannie, Freddie's real-life wife who committed suicide, leaving you wondering how she is still able to offer an opinion about what happens. But like Henry Hill's Karen Hill she seems like the classic innocent abroad, swept along by a handsome, smooth talking hunk in a stylish suit into a world of savage brutality and crime.
This film is carried by two performances alone, everyone else is just along for the ride, Reggie and Ronnie as played by Tom Hardy who, apart from the dreadful 'This Means War' doesn't seem to have made a shit film yet (excluding Star Trek Nemesis, and not mentioning Batman The Dark Knight Rises). He is simply staggering here in his portrayal of the twins, giving each an utterly distinct personality and the film wisely chooses to focus on Reggie, who of the two is by far the more sympathetic, mainly because he's clearly not so staggeringly bat-shit insane as his brother and this sort of gangster bio pic needs a villain we can at least like a little, Henry Hill from Goodfellas, springs to mind as an example. That said, a quick background check on the Krays' real life activities makes you realise that Brian Helgland exercised the genuinely terrible things they got up to, in a way homoganising them as well as simpifying them too, in reality Ronnie claimed to be a bisexual not homosexual, but for this film he's just a psycho homosexual criminal and they might have killed a couple of guys but come on, they were just crimbos, so it's cool.
This is a well directed, superbly acted, well art-directed crime drama that leaves you wanting more info as well as a bad taste in the mouth. No one is nice in this film and Eccleston, the only decent man in the entire film, still looks like as if he's holding in the world's stinkest poo. His investigation into the Krays is at best perfunctory and you get no sense of what was being done to bring the boys down.
A fascinating tale, but one that ultimately feels a little empty, made superb by Tom Hardy.