On paper this film sounded great, but unfortunately what we see on screen is nothing but. This was not a bad film per se, but just that it was ... uninteresting. A tepid and bland presentation of what could have been an exciting gangster(s) biopic. The only saving grace was the undeniably talented Tom Hardy who gave a performance that was fun, exciting, engaging but sadly undeserving of Brian Helgeland.
For someone who wrote the excellent - oscar-winning - screenplay of LA Confidential, the narrative in this film was unfocused. Does it want to be a gangster film, a true-life biopic, a romantic drama or a family drama? Sadly, Helgeland chose to focus on the romantic aspect which was the weakest and also the least interesting storyline.
At the end of the film, after 131 long minutes - it would have been better served if they cut it by 20-30 minutes - we still do not really know the Kray brothers any better.
Helgeland's story seemed to want to push the envelop, but Helgeland the director seemed to resist it at every turn.
As a director, Helgeland best work was utilising computer wizardry to have Hardy interact with himself. But for the rest of the film, it was pedestrian. Even his choice of music - with Carter Burwell - seemed at odds with the rest of the film.
Hardy was great. He created two distinct characters and they were both interesting and riveting. Sadly, the script couldn't serve him better by exploring the intriguing dynamics between the two brothers as well as the challenge of being a gangster and a lover/psychopath. However, towards the end of the bloated run time, even the audience was slowly getting tired of the schtick.
The supporting cast were a talented bunch of actors but all so wasted. Paul Bettany barely registered, Christopher Eccleston was boring and one-note, up-and-coming Taron Egerton had a few moments to shine but his character was a mystery - lover? sidekick? right hand man? all three? - and David Thewlis was reduced to almost the unintentional comedic relief.
Emily Browning had chemistry with Hardy, but using her as an audience surrogate was a poor choice to bring the audience into the gangster world as she herself is so out of it. As such, her character was difficult to relate to.
In the end, maybe Hardy may get recognised for his work here - depending on the rest of this year's crowd I suppose - but by itself, it was not enough to lift this film out of the doldrums of blandness. A boring film could be a worse sin than a bad film.