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In London during the Swinging ’60s, the Kray brothers were the public face of crime, but there was tension in the ranks. Slick charmer Reggie (Tom Hardy) wanted to take their protection racket legit, while his somewhat mentally unbalanced twin Ronnie (Hardy again) wanted to stay true to their violent gangster roots.
The grit and glamour of ’60s London is well-recreated and the story never drags, but the lack of substance to the constantly self-promoting Krays’ brief crime careers – they were mostly just dodgy club owners and standover merchants – leaves this struggling to be more than just a traditional gangster yarn.
The decision to focus on Reggie’s wife Frances Shea (Emily Browning) is odd – she was mostly sidelined from their antics – and seeing the Krays through her eyes adds little, especially as Hardy is far and away the best thing about this film. Constantly verging on parody (Ronnie’s crazy eyes are amazing) but never less than menacing, he creates a brilliantly compelling double act. It’s perhaps more in love with the allure of the gangster life than it should be, but that love gives the story its shine – and Hardy’s powerhouse performance is enough to make this worthwhile all on his own.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris