Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, Taron Egerton and Paul Bettany
Running Time: 111 minutes
Release Date: September 9th
London in the 1960s, everyone had a story about the Krays. Such is the opening line of Legend, Brian Helgeland’s own take on the Kray legend, a super fun, if a bit shallow, interpretation.
Who’d have ever thought that Tom Hardy taking cues from both Lindsay Lohan and Spandau Ballet would be a good idea? But here it is, in 1960s London, as he steps into roles last inhabited by the Kemp brothers to play a pair of identical twins. The result is very good indeed. As Reggie, Hardy is charming and focused and while still very much a criminal, embodies the most endearing characteristics of the brothers. Violent but likable, rough but loyal, a criminal and a businessman all rolled into one. Ronnie, on the other hand, is a different story. This is where Hardy’s wheezes and grunts come in. Ronnie is a paranoid schizophrenic, obsessed with being a true gangster. Hardy performs well, and it is not gimmicky, even if at times the two can seem a bit independent from one another for such an apparently close pair.
These two dichotomous performances, along with the support of the likes of Emily Browning and David Thewlis, are easily the best things on show here.
Helgeland’s direction, on the other hand, seems to fall too far into the Fairytale trappings he used the opening narration to mock, almost idolising the Krays and the era in which they operated over the course of the film. He seemingly relishes the opportunity to cover such topics onscreen, and as a result, we spend most of the time with them repeatedly being presented with who they are. Again and again, we are shown that these were charming, 1960s London gangsters, untouchable and enchanting. Ronnie is a headcase wary of his meds who, in his own words, prefers boys, and Reggie is a charismatic criminal tactician. While at first it is an engrossing dynamic, it is a status quo that Helgeland seems reluctant to alter or indeed progress. As a result we are left with conflicts that surprisingly, for a true story, seem tacked on and forced. When certain conflicts inevitably boil over, they are either played for strange laughs or lack much of an emotional punch at all.
Therein lies another of Legend‘s flaws, as it never achieves any particular high or low. Some of the scenes of the Krays being the Krays are quite fun, but we are never truly appalled at their deeds or even made suitably uncomfortable, either by their actions or even Reggie’s waning mental health. This is a surprisingly tame movie, particularly in a post-Wolf of Wall Street world, (not to mention the fact that it comes twenty years after The Krays).
Still, Hardy and co. are very good, and despite the fact that the entire feature at times feels like a first act, it is a thoroughly enjoyable first act indeed. Perhaps a bit mild for anyone expecting a true interpretation, but entertaining nonetheless. Worth it for the performance above all else, even if it is just to see how Tom Hardy gets on playing two brothers.