Monthly Archives: October 2015

It’s Kray Time! – ‘Legend’ Film Review

Legend (Brian Helgeland 2015) is successful on many levels. Go and see it. But leave any preconceptions at home. That’s a caveat that maybe assumes too much, I know, but the story of the Kray twins has been told many times and has been subsumed into popular culture in ways that could colour your thinking on what you’re about to see.  So forget the Pythons’ Reg and Dinsdale Pirhana stuff , Big Vern from Viz and the Kemps as the twins in Peter Medak’s 1990 movie. Forget, also, other movies about twins. So, yeah, forget Jeremy Irons and Hayley Mills. The people who made this movie are way ahead of you.


Director/scriptwriter, Brian Helgeland, has taken the myth of the Kray twins – a myth first imagined by the twins themselves and planished over the next 50 years by celebrities, the media, you and me – and placed his protagonists inside that myth. All the better to tell their story. And who better to tell that story than Frances Shea – Reggie’s dead wife –  telling us from beyond the grave as the movie opens;  ‘London in the 1960s, everyone had a story about the Krays. They were twins. Reggie was a gangster prince of the East End, Ronnie Kray was a one-man mob.’ And so the myth begins.
The expedient thing about narrating a myth is that the characters can arrive fully formed at any point along the time line. No need for an organic exposition about why or how they are who they are. They just are. And so it is here. We meet the parents briefly; older brother Charlie hardly merits a mention. But we get to see much of the milieu – the rival Richardson gang, the violence, the clubs, the pubs and the celebrities who lubricated the myth – gave it traction. And the eerie brotherly love. There’s a lot of that. There’s also some manipulation of the idea that Reggie was the ‘good’ evil twin and Ron was the ‘bad’ evil twin. Helgeland lets that theme play out as the myth unfolds. Reggie courting Frances; Reggie tolerating Ron’s excesses. Reggie smiling benignly at his mother, Violet. But as the myth crumbles near to the story’s conclusion, the fact of both men’s psychopathy is frighteningly real because such people are fearless. Not courageous. Fearless. Ron shooting a rival gangster in a pub; The twins fighting each other in a fevered frenzy; Reggie killing an errant henchman at a party, Frances committing suicide. Nothing you could associate with a Robin Hood.

Tom Hardy invests both men with distinct behaviours and characteristics. Necessary for narrative purposes, yes – but as the myth shatters, the atoms collide and his genius is in revealing that outcome. When we first meet Ronald Kray, he has the same horrific/comedic demeanour that Ralph Fiennes lent to his portrayal of Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. There’s something of Peter Cook’s Clive in the voice, the delivery. Similarly, Reggie Kray, he informs with the charisma of a Ben Siegel, as played by Warren Beatty in Bugsy. But as the conclusion draws near, the twins are truly indistinguishable. Their domination, their violence, their indifference to all else other than ‘ruling London’ has made them a single entity. And that entity has sucked the life, the energy, any decency from anything and anyone around it. We feel that – and our exhaustion at the end is a very perverse triumph for Hardy and his director.
I must also give credit to Emily Browning as Frances Shea. Her detailed portrayal of the vulnerable Frances lends authenticity to the time and place of the Kray’s story. She perfectly evokes the look and mood of the East End in the mid 60s. There’s something of Sandie Shaw about her. I half expected her to burst into ‘There’s Always Something There  To Remind Me’ at any moment.
‘Legend’ is, for the most part, a fine movie containing a compelling, brilliant central performance by Tom Hardy. My principal reservation is that Helgeland’s script too often wants to tell us rather than show us and maybe he needs to develop a little more trust in his audience. That aside, this is a convincing and involving retelling and outing of the Kray myth.


The Sound of Music – 3 Short Stories

I can outrun them. They’ll never catch me.

After all, I’m driving the same car that Steve McQueen drives in ‘Bullitt’ – a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. In the same Highland Green colour.
So they’ll never catch me. What have they got than can do a quarter-mile in 13.8?

I’m wearing the dark blue roll neck jersey; the Lucky Strikes are on the passenger seat and the Colt Diamondback is in the glove compartment. The customised 8-track is blazing out its message to the countryside as we growl and hiss  along the highway.

Such a cool ride. The Mustang is a beast that I’ve tamed. Yeah! But, hey, where did the Dodge Charger come from? It’s alongside me. A black ’68. Two guys in it. Ramming the Mustang. Damn! Brakes. Brakes. No! No! Spinning. End-on-end. Roof crumpling. Steering wheel in my chest. Such searing pain. Blood. My blood. I see the sky. I’m outside of the car.

I cannot move. The 2 guys are standing over me. One looks like Lee Marvin, the other wears glasses. Looks like an accountant. They seem kind of concerned. They’re talking;

‘This ain’t a movie kid. The Charger does the quarter in 13.6. Faster than that Ford piece of shit.’
‘Tough as hell stereo though, Jerry. Still playing’
‘Yeah. And what is that shit? Should be Lalo Schifrin, huh?‘ He laughs dryly.
‘I know what it is, Jerry. It’s, uh, classical they call it. Tchaikovsky I think. Yeah. Tchaikovsky – that’s it.’
‘No shit? Kinda inappropriate wouldn’t ya say?

I saw his boot but I never felt it.

Restaurant Review by Piers Norman

‘The Groomsman’ Falls at the Final Hurdle

‘The Groomsman’ licensed restaurant. 27-29 Waverley Street, Phone 829 2337
Hosts; Ralph & Gwen Carstairs
Chef; Clementini Arbiso
Michelin Rating; 2 stars (“Table excellente, mérite un détour”)
Open for dinner; Thursday Saturday, Lunch 7 days.
Fully licensed
Starters      $10-20
Mains         $25-40
Puddings   $10-20

Food: *****

Service: ****

Ambience: *

Wine list: ****

Sound System; *

I could go on about the caramelised onions , the bouillabaisse and the 2009 Pauillac but it would be a complete waste of time. When we were here in 2013, I had occasion to remonstrate with owner, Ralph Carstairs, about the hopeless sound system in the restaurant. So much so that I was bound over to keep the peace.
When we visited The Groomsman last week, sadly, things had deteriorated further –  to the point where Escoffier himself could not have retrieved the situation.  Whatever joy my palate may have experienced was crushed by the bottom-end racket emanating from the High Street rack system that brings disgrace to Waverley Street. No matter what disc is in the player, it all sounds like Sly and Robbie Maximum Dub. I was somewhat tired and distraught that night and so I do hope that the Magistrates take that into account at the hearing next week.


Sitting in my study, sipping on a Chivas Regal and listening to Diana Krall on the Bang & Olufsen felt good. It had been a hard week and I needed to feel right, feel hip. The interview with Bono hadn’t gone as well as I expected and he had put up all sorts of barriers when I asked him why he kept looking at his watch. Still, I could touch it up a little and it would make a fine second instalment of the ‘Irish Rock Legends’ series that Rolling Stone had commissioned. It would have been the third instalment if someone could have bothered to tell me that John Cale was Welsh.
The first interview had been with Van Morrison. I say interview; it was a phone call lasting 5 minutes or so and 4 of those were listening to Van arguing with an official outside the Irish Supreme Court where he’s contesting some land ownership or a paternity suit or such like. Still, I can touch it up a little, pad it out a bit – it’ll be fine. Then all I’ll need to do is find an actual third Irish Rock Legend. I wonder if Sam Smith is Irish?



























Growing Old Disgracefully

I’m looking forward to reaching the 69th anniversary of my birth. I have no other course than to look forward to it as it falls due next Tuesday. I cannot look back on it or even askance at it as it is out of reach. Getting nearer – but out of reach. So I must look forward.
I have the same choice about next week as when I entered the post-war world of Dulwich Hospital on 13th October, 1946. Although I was extraordinarily bright as a child, I’m fairly certain that my foetal sensibility, even at the hour of delivery, would not have been up to making critical choices about what was to follow – let alone grappling with the complex metaphysics. So I don’t remember being asked, given a choice. Do you want to be born? Who would you like to be? Would you like some siblings? Where do you want to live? Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief? I wasn’t involved in any of that. At least, not for a while. And thus it will be next Tuesday. No choice. I’ll be 69. Soixante-neuf. Although saying it the French way only serves as an ironic reminder of temps perdu that are unlikely to be recherché.
Getting to be older, no one says old – they’re far too polite, means a number of things. It means changing channels when the incontinence pads advertisements appear on the TV; it means doing the Kevin Spacey thing with your eyebrows when a pollster is asking for your age group; it means desperately trying not to say, ‘When I was your age’ to people aged 50; It means not turning your youth into a memorial.
I like to think about and talk about the 60s. It was mostly a good time. But I didn’t choose to be around when all that stuff happened. I had no choice in the matter. I suppose that I chose to join in, you could say. I’ve never been one to stand on the side lines. So I have some responsibility for what happened. Just the millionth part of an iota of accountability for everything that’s happened since then.
But the God of History is who you need to talk to if you have a beef about One Direction, Global Warming and Terrible Television. She’s the one to see about your sugar addiction, your falling asleep at your day job because your second job at night and your third job on the weekends leaves you overtired and depressed, your failure to maintain a viable erection for longer than thirty seconds, your inability to understand why everyone in the room is laughing at the gag except you. Get her to explain your circumstances. and don’t take any of that ‘gene pool’ crap. It really is all down to her. She gives us the circumstances that provide the illusion of choice. Republican or Democrat? Full fat or reduced? The Embassy or The Roxy? Being born or remaining as a twinkle in the eye of the God of History that disappears as she nods off to sleep?
Yes. I’m looking forward to next Tuesday.