Tom Hardy – check.
Tom Hardy playing twins – check
Tom Hardy playing notorious twin British Gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray – check
Legend is a great film with an excellent central performance at its core- Unfortunately not.
I hate to be a Debbie Downer but sadly Legend as directed by Brian Helgeland and starring Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, Paul Bettany and Taron Egerton commits a cardinal movie sin- it fails to serve the talent of its central performances and provide anything more than a surface glimpse into what should be the fascinating life of the Krays and those in their orbit. Based on John Pearson’s book “The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins” which deals with the rise and fall of the Kray twins; the relationship that bound them together as Reggie Kray tries in vain to control the violent, bad for business impulsivity of his certifiable psychotic brother Ronnie. The film serves as a mere forward to what could have been a different take on the tired gangster/criminal genre.
Hardy relishes playing the dual role, particularly that of Ronnie and the film benefits greatly from his talent, however even Hardy appears at times to be labouring under the weight of the mediocre script and direction. Only Taron Egerton (recently seen in Kingsman: The Secret Service) brings an unpredictable energy to the screen at all times, which in a story with such an eclectic mix characters at its disposal, is a real crime.
The story of the Kray’s is narrated by Frances Shea (Emily Browning), the girlfriend of Reggie, she is front and centre for much of the film’s action, I dare say as an audience we are meant to care about her safety, her future, yet Helgeland’s script makes that feat nearly impossible as all we learn about Frances is that she is ‘fragile’, it is hinted that she, like Ronnie also suffers from a mental illness of some kind. I dare say it’s of the ‘underdeveloped long suffering female partner of the protagonist’ variety. A development in the film’s third act is one of the more misguided, manipulative attempts to wring out some sort of unearned emotion via the ‘unfaithful narrator’ device – see also Me & Earl & the dying girl.
The tone of Legend is another head scratcher, it shifts from comedic, fun action to dark and ultra-violent, in a way that is reminiscent of much better gangster films that have a confidence of character that this film does not.
In a recent interview with SAG, Hardy said he agreed to star in Legend because he desperately wanted to play the character of Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Kray, which isn’t hard to believe, given he is a violent, mentally unstable man, openly bisexual and a real mamma’s boy. The issue with Legend’s portrayal of such a complex character isn’t just that it fails to do it justice, but that it also turns Ronnie’s complexities into fodder for comedy, even more so in the masculine context of the story and its likely audience. Legend is the prime example of expectations going unmet, that being said, there is enough pleasure in watching Hardy play the central twins and enough flash to keep less discerning viewers entertained.
Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taran Egerton
Writers: Brian Helgeland, John Pearson