It’s a romance, it’s a gangster film, it slightly a comedy, all wrapped up in a film which is a tad bit too long, but still very much entertaining.
Trigger Warning(s): Implied Rape & Domestic Violence
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
The twin brothers Ronald and Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) may look similar but they are far from the same. Reggie represents the type of mobster which may do extortion, racketeering, and white collar crime, but for the most part keeps their nose clean. This is as opposed to Ronald who is about that gangster —- and is looking for gunfights and brawls. This split in personality sometimes makes the twins the perfect combination, sometimes not. Mostly because Ron wants his brother to participate in the violence, give in to his dark side but, while capable, Reggie seems like he would prefer to stick to the business end of things.
Especially once Frances (Emily Browning) comes into his life. She is a sweet girl from the neighborhood, one who may love him, but not his gangster life. After all, never mind the safety issues, but what if he gets caught or arrested? This means her spending months, if not years, without him, and though she went to college to become a secretary, it seems once she married him that was over.
Leaving us with a three-way, of which Ronald would never participate in since he is an out and proud homosexual. On one side you have Ron, someone who is a bit off, but loves and cares for his brother, and wants him to participate in gang wars and beating the hell out of people; then there is Frances, who wants Reggie to go straight so they can be together, make a family, and be happy; then there is Reggie, a man with ambition who doesn’t see going straight as something that can be done quickly or easily, and certainly can’t maintain the lifestyle and finances he has grown accustomed to. But, with such stark different personalities between the three, and crime and violence all around, naturally someone eventually has to go down. Be it into the grave or the cell.
Hardy could give Tatiana Maslany a run for her money with the way he plays Ronald and Reggie. For while Reggie is, as noted, this cool, calm, and collected gangster, sort of like how Robert DeNiro usually plays his, Ronald is a mess. Ronald is the type who is mentally off, needs to be tended to and is impetuous. But the true stark difference for Ronald is his facial expressions which, for the NY audience I was with, made the theater echo with giggles. Something which I can’t even explain, you just have to see for yourself.
The violence in the movie ranges from an entertaining bar fight to shocking, in terms of us seeing Frances with a black eye. Making it so it really seems they wanted to show through the twins almost every facet of gangster life and explore the main two types of gangsters.
Considering the mouth on Ronald, it is sort of unfortunate that we didn’t get to see him be the homosexual man he is.
The story often feels like it has no ultimate goal or direction. If anything, it seems like an endless loop, especially after Frances and Reggie are official. It has Ronald doing something stupid, Reggie getting caught for something, jail time, winning Frances back, and then repeat. Making it where, while it is a rather exciting movie at first, after a while that two-hour time length pushes you to check how much longer you have until it is over.
I wish the other gangs which fought for London were built up better. For with no real competition for the Kray twins, and the handful of opposition not being built up to seem so, they are presented as unstoppable in such a way which doesn’t really give you a reason to invest in them. Especially because we skip their rise to prominence so we miss most of Reggie and Ronald’s struggle to become one of the top gangs in East London.
On The Fence
I have never been that fond of the way mob wives are written in films, and while Emily Browning was perhaps the original reason I cared about this film, and I liked her in it, I do feel the role she plays is weak. Granted, they tried to craft something for Frances by making her a bit sharper than the average mob wife, and gave us her perspective on things but, in the end, it honestly felt like she was there as part of the contrast between Reggie and Ronald vs. her being there to show Reggie’s soft side before the darkness consumed him.
Overall: TV Viewing
A lot of times, I find there can be a major difference of opinion about a movie if I write the review as soon as I get home vs. sleeping on it. This film is no different. If I wrote up the review last night, I would probably be more inclined to make excuses for the time length, a story which is lifeless but saved by Hardy’s performances, and maybe label this worth seeing.
However, the following morning I honestly must say this is a TV Viewing type of film. Reason being, take away the praise for Hardy’s characters, and then this film has nothing. It doesn’t have a storyline which features a rise or fall, or a struggle to maintain; the side characters are all pretty much forgettable, and not a one really stands out at all, and then you have that two hour time length. Something which I often say is extremely unnecessary for most films and this one is a prime example. So much happens in the film, yet nothing which really moves the plot along. I mean, there are but so many times I can really watch Reggie break promises to Frances, Ron do something stupid, or say something stupid, before the luster is gone and all that remains is rust.
Love is not an answer to anything, it is a witness.