Screening Room: ‘Legend’

Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy in 'Legend' (Universal Pictures)
Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy in ‘Legend’ (Universal Pictures)

Back in the 1960s, the Kray twins were a couple of the flashiest, most press-hungry gangsters that London’s East End had ever seen. In Brian Helgeland’s take on their story—based on John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence—Tom Hardy plays both Krays because, well, he’s Tom Hardy and there’s no good reason to think he can’t.

Legend is opening this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

By the time Legend starts, its real-life East End gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray(Tom Hardy, each time) are already the toast of Swinging 1960s London. BrianHelgeland’s crime epic dispenses with any rise to power, presenting us with these men already hitting peak power. They swagger though town as though they were ten feet tall, mocking the hapless cops detailed to follow them, knowing that fear and the East End’s tribal loyalties will keep anybody from informing. There is nowhere for them and the film to go, in other words, but down…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Whitey’ Gives its Subject Too Much Credit

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‘Whitey’ Bulger in his younger years (Magnolia Pictures)

whitey-posterJoe Berlinger has worked on some amazing true-crime documentaries over the years, not least the ground-breaking Paradise Lost trilogy. With Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger, though, he (inadvertently or not) buoys the facetious mythology of Southie crime boss ‘Whitey’ Bulger as some noble gangster.

Whitey opens today in limited release and will probably show up on cable later in the year. My review is at Film Racket:

Fortuitously hitting theaters well before Scott Cooper’s fictional (and likely mythological) take on Bulger’s life, Whitey doesn’t try to be the feature-length nonfiction take on the South Boston crime lord. Instead, true-crime documentarian Berlinger zeros in on the sort of thing he normally does best: the trial itself…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘My Brother the Devil’

My Brother the Devil

mybrother-posterSally El Hosaini’s debut film My Brother the Devil  is a drama about two brothers in an Egyptian immigrant family living in a hardscrabble part of London who have to fight everything from homophobia to the gangs on the street to each other.

My review is at Film Journal International:

As older brothers go, Rashid (James Floyd) is not so bad. Although he’s given to arbitrarily punching and berating his younger teenage brother Mo (Fady Elsayed), as would be expected, he also keeps an eye out for the kid and doesn’t want him to follow in his footsteps. The streets outside their small high-rise flat in Hackney are filled with temptations that have already lured Rashid far astray by the time the film begins.  Although the conflict that this sets up for the brothers is hardly new territory, Hosaini’s take on it veers into some unexpected complications that keep the drama crackling…

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Gangster Squad’

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The new year’s slate of movies is starting off with a bang…actually lots of bangs. The star-packed Gangster Squad (Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, and so on) was originally a fall 2012 release before getting bumped to mid-January. Its high-wattage cast and liberal gunplay would probably make sure that it would do decent business no matter what time of year it came roaring onto screens:

An internal Los Angeles Police Department report once counted the number of gangland killings in the city between 1900 and 1951: They came up with 57. Roughly that many people are rubbed out in less than two hours during Ruben Fleischer’s showboating, bullet-pocked, fist-to-the-face period gangster film. Former homicide detective Will Beall’s lunkish screenplay for Gangster Squad is nominally based on Paul Lieberman’s Los Angeles Times articles about the LAPD unit that spent the late-1940s and ’50s targeting East Coast mobsters with strictly off-the-books tactics. Taking them up to Mulholland Drive and putting a gun to their ear was a standard stratagem. But the film that Zombieland director Fleischer brings to the screen is more interested in gaping flesh wounds: This gangster squad puts bullets in nearly everything that moves…

Gangster Squad opens wide on Friday.

My full review is at Film Journal International.

You can watch the trailer here: