Gangster movies have been done every way possible since the silent era, and the early 2000’s saw the rise of Guy Ritchie’s hyper stylized cockney-sploitation oeuvre infest the mainstream. But a Goodfellas-esque so-crazy-it-must-be-true take has been missing from the canon, until now. Add Tom Hardy in dual roles as the nefarious twins at the center of the story and an incredibly game supporting cast and you’ve got a story that can barely rise above its contemporaries and bring something new to a well-trod genre. But only just.
Tom Hardy (Bane, Mad Max, Charlie Bronson and everything in between) inhabits the dual roles of twin 60’s era gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray effectively, disappearing into slick, former boxer Reggie and especially withdrawn sociopath Ronnie. The effects are completely seamless and one can only imagine the extreme effort and skill that went into the entire production, especially the many scenes that the brothers share. The cast is filled out by ringers like Paul Bettany as a rival gangster and Christopher Eccleston as the “copper” on their trail. Emily Browning is also a standout as Reggie’s tortured (both physically and mentally) love interest.
Sadly though, aside from the performances and the effects there sadly isn’t much here that gangster movie buffs haven’t seen before. The looks and sounds of 60’s England are faithfully and beautifully recreated, and the detail of Ronnie’s brazen, unashamed homosexuality (surely unheard of at the time, especially in the tough guy circles these lads ran in) is thought provoking indeed, but any student of Coppola, Scorsese, DePalma or even the aforementioned Ritchie has seen this gangland “rise and fall” tale all before. Definitely worth a look, as nearly all of Hardy’s work has been, but far from essential.