Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.
Director: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton
Release Date: 11th September, 2015 (UK) | 20th November, 2015 (US)
“London in the 1960s, everyone had a story about the Krays. They were twins. Reggie was a gangster prince of East End, Ronnie Kray was a one-man mob.”
Legend tells the tale of two of Britain’s most notorious gangsters – the infamous Kray twins. Tom Hardy takes on a dual role as both ‘Reggie’ & ‘Ron’, in a movie that tracks the rise and dominance of the brothers’ criminal empire in the East End of London End during the 1960’s. L.A. Confidential scribe Brian Helgeland is in the director’s chair, and also writes the script – adapted from John Pearson‘s biography, “The Profession Of Violence”.
While it makes for an entertaining viewing experience, Legend‘s script is found wanting in certain areas. Specifically the pacing, which gets a tad pedestrian. Clocking in at 131 mins, the film is too long for its own good and noticeably drags. This is in spite of a fantastic first act, which delivers both humour and tension in equal measure. The following acts are much weaker, and, consequently, the movie starts to lose its sense of direction.
It seems ironic that, given the amount of screen time on offer, most of the movie’s side characters feel neglected. Hardy’s Kray twins naturally dominate proceedings whenever onscreen, but there’s very few occasions where they aren’t. This issue predominantly comes about from the burden of having two central protagonists. Sadly, the Kray twins surrounded by so many one-dimensional figures, it undermines the film’s authenticity.
“A shootout, right, is a fucking shootout! Like a Western.”
Tom Hardy is simply phenomenal in both lead roles. As Ron Kray, he’s fierce, intimidating and incredibly unhinged – delivering a dominant display of scene-stealing moments. However, he saves his best work for Reggie. Equal parts charming and ruthless, he simply oozes dark, Bond-like charisma in one of his strongest performances to date. It becomes all the more impressive as the cracks begin to show from beneath his cool exterior.
However, there’s very little opportunity afforded to anyone else. Emily Browning works hard the movie’s narrator Frances, but her character feels incomplete. Veteran Brits David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston & Paul Bettany are woefully underused, and while Kingsman star Taron Egerton‘s comically hammy turn is funny at first, it quickly grows tiring. It would have also been nice to see Merlin‘s Colin Morgan given a bit more to do.
Direction & Tone
As the director, Brian Helgeland captures the communal yet brutal vibe of the East End, and successfully balances Hardy’s multiple roles (despite utilising a rather obvious body double). Legend is also a lot funnier than expected – and possesses a sense of playfulness. However, this kind of light-hearted humour rarely blends well with some of the film’s darker, violent moments, and seems a little out of place in the film’s final act.
Str Kray Observations
- See what I did there, eh? I’m here all week.
- I love that Ron Kray is so cavalier about his sexuality, but it’s hard to imagine he would have been able to… in the 60’s… Surrounded by ‘ard men..
- No, not ”ard’ in that way you dirty-minded S.O.B…
Legend is an entertaining crime piece that doubles as a surprisingly hilarious black comedy, but the final product is maddeningly inconsistent.