Legend

Legend photo starrating-3stars.jpgIt’s 2 Tom Hardys for the price of 1. That should be the tagline of Legend, the new biopic about the Krays from American director Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale, 42). He also adapts the screenplay from John Pearson’s 1972 book The Profession of Violence. Twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray were two of London’s most notorious gangsters in organized crime. Going from protection rackets and extortion in 1950s to West End nightclub owners in the swinging 60s, they mixed with celebrities and politicians alike becoming personalities in their own right. Legend is a fairly entertaining tale that recounts the rise and fall of the Kray twins. Thankfully our chronicle begins with the brothers already in power so we don’t have to suffer through some hackneyed stuff about their childhood. They’re a formidable entity right from the start, instilling fear into everyone with whom they do business. They’re even seeking to expand their bid for supremacy with some mobsters from across the pond.

Tom Hardy is hands down the MVP of the picture. He plays both brothers in separately shot scenes aided by the use of some digital trickery. Ronnie is an unstable gay paranoid schizophrenic and Reggie is his equally unstable, but much more suave and debonair brother. Reggie pursues pretty ingenue Frances Shea (Emily Browning), the sister of his driver. As the girlfriend, she is a pleasant girl who ultimately becomes his wife. However the decision to make her the narrator for everything that happens is odd. Having her recount their inner-gangland affairs is awkward since she’s rarely present during those events. It’s a simplistic style choice that trades on an overall lack of depth for beaucoup gloss.

Clearly the main selling point of Legend is a pair of gangster performances from British actor Tom Hardy. The scattered and superficial biography is sustained by juicy twin roles that impressively come across as two totally different people. The framework allows for him to really chew scenery in a compelling way. Reggie is by far the better characterization in terms of charisma. He’s a brooding, commanding presence. Impatient Ronnie, on the other hand, is a bit cartoonish. He tosses off intentionally funny one-liners that appropriately induce laughter but also cheapen the seriousness of the rest of the production. Hardy ‘s garbled elocution is actually reminiscent of his portrayal of the supervillain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

A few of the Krays’ criminal dealings are depicted. For example, the murders of George Cornell (Shane Attwooll), a member of the rival Richardson gang, and criminal hitman Jack the Hat (Sam Spruell), do occur. Unfortunately all too often Legend focuses on the less interesting subject of Reggie’s marriage to Frances Shea. Certainly there is no derth of bloodshed. The account is indeed violent. It’s just that the narrative is fashioned around a triad of performances that occasionally veers into soap opera when it should focus on the twins rule of terror. In addition to the aforementioned Emily Browning, Tom Hardy is supported by an able cast including actors Colin Morgan, Christopher Eccleston, Taron Egerton, David Thewlis and Chazz Palminteri. They’re all great, but make no mistake. This is Tom Hardy’s show.

11-03-15

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11 Responses to “Legend”

  1. Wouldn’t it be a fantastic picture if the narrative framework decided to skimp on the narration (or at least narration by a softer, gentler soul) and focused on that reign of terror as you alluded to, and combined that with dueling crazy performances from Hardy? I haven’t seen this yet, mind you, but I can imagine I am probably going to be a bit disappointed with this when I get to it. I’ve heard a lot about the decision to cast the film in a romantic way, which is odd. . .

  2. abbiosbiston Says:

    Hardy was great but I was ultimately underwhelmed by Legend and I completely agree that making Frances the narrator was a very odd choice.

  3. Pretty good movie. Tom Hardy was the whole movie. Very convincing in dual roles. Had a stylish look, but wanted it to be better. 3 stars

  4. This film was OK, but Hardy’s performances deserved a better film. I haven’t seen The Krays with the Kemp twins, but I hear it’s a far superior movie. I wanted much more grit from this, but it was too superficial.

  5. I like the idea of Legend starting with the Krays already in power so we don’t have to deal with hackneyed childhood stuff. Although I agree that having the wife serve as a narrator is odd given that she’s not present during most of the events. I admire Tom Hardy for how thoroughly he throws himself into each role and it sounds like he does that with his usual vigor here, however I’m starting to suspect that his garbled elocution is part of a regular trend, considering that he was quite hard to understand in The Revenant too. Bummed to hear that the movie focuses on the less interesting subject of Reggie’s marriage when there seems like a lot of more much engaging drama in the crimes these two brothers committed. I plan to see this at some point, but honestly I haven’t been in a rush to catch it, since I haven’t heard anyone rave about it.

    • Tom Hardy was memorable in The Revenant, but I suspect his Oscar nomination for that film was also taking his work in Mad Max and this film into account as well. He gave some great performances in 2015.

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