The notorious Kray twins of East London have always had a peculiar relationship with the British media. Although they were brutally violent murderers and racketeers, their crimes were more often than not brushed aside because they were such compelling personalities, and they had a working-class charm that both fulfilled and subverted the Cockney gangster cliche (they might have “loved their mum”, but one was openly homosexual at a time when that was highly unusual). Standard biopics have been made of them before, and with this latest addition director Brian Helgeland (who helmed the underrated Payback and the more recent Jackie Robinson┬ádrama 42) does little to circumvent the usual “rise and fall” narrative that movies of this type tend to court.

What would be a pretty ordinary film however is given a fascinating gimmick by a piece of stunt casting – Tom Hardy takes on the task of portraying both the twins, which turns proceedings into a somewhat distracting but never less than fascinating exercise in figuring out how certain scenes were shot and admiring Hardy’s impressive character work. So while the rest of the film is pretty by-the-numbers (the female characters are treated very shoddily and its use of narration is lazy and ineffective), it still has some bravura sequences (the two twins have an extended fistfight at one point which must have been a logistical nightmare) and Hardy does a tremendous job with his bold choices – you can tell which brother is which in every frame.

Another bog-standard telling of the familiar Kray twins story5
It is a pretty interesting story in many ways to be honest7
A very lazy approach to narrative and female characters4
At no point does the fact that they didn't have two twins become obvious8
Tom Hardy's vocal, physical and character choices9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The named female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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