dir-scr Brian Helgeland
prd Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Brian Oliver
with Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton, Tara Fitzgerald, Colin Morgan, Chazz Palminteri, Paul Bettany, Mel Raido, Paul Anderson, Jane Wood
release UK 9.Sep.15, US 2.Oct.15
15/UK StudioCanal 2h11
You've been framed: Hardy (as Ronnie), Eccleston and Hardy (as Reggie)

broening thewlis egerton
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Legend Tom Hardy gives two storming performances in this entertaining real-life London gangster movie. With a witty script and inventive direction from Helgeland, the film strikes an archly comical tone even as it turns brutally violent. But it's compromised by the lack of a plot, stereotypical characters and that generic title.

In the early 1960s, the Kray brothers ruled East London and are taking on South London's mob, led by Charlie Richardson (Bettany), to run the whole city. Reggie (Hardy) is the hard-headed businessman, while his identical twin Ronnie (also Hardy) is a blustering loose cannon. Ronnie is openly gay at a time when being so is illegal, while Reggie pursues 16-year-old Frances (Browning), much to the annoyance of her stern mother (Fitzgerald). As their influence rises, Scotland Yard's Inspector Read (Eccleston) struggles to create a convincing case that will bring them down.

Essentially a series of set-pieces over an indistinct period of time (it feels like a decade but was actually about two years), the film's only narrative thrust comes in Ronnie and Frances' turbulent relationship. These scenes aver between family drama, dark comedy and ruthless violence, but they are stitched together by an overall sense of humour that makes everything oddly amusing. While this sometimes feels rather inappropriate for what's happening, it does help us understand the characters and identify with them.

Hardy vanishes into both roles, dominating the screen: Reggie's stare is steely, while the more physically imposing Ronnie's is barking mad. He believably conveys how these young men (in their early 30s) had such a terrifying grip on power. And some members of their sprawling gang are equally riveting, most notably Egerton as Ronnie's guffawing sidekick Teddy. Meanwhile, the doe-eyed Browning only barely registers as a young woman drawn to trouble, knowing that Reggie is bad news but unable to resist his piercing charm.

Helgeland skims over and simplifies several notorious details (such as the fact that both brothers were bisexual). He uses the Krays' relationship to keep the film moving, pinging between camaraderie and rivalry. While Ronnie was certified mentally ill, Reggie isn't much better, and when they explode each is a force to reckon with. And by infusing so much of this story with a bleak sense of humour, Helgeland asks us to laugh nervously at some of the most horrific things these men did. Even so, this offbeat tone and Hardy's charisma make sure the film is always raucously engaging.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 13.Aug.15

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