Director: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning
The trailer for ‘Legend’ is one of the last I watched before swearing off trailers altogether, in an attempt to combat false expectations and spoilers. I’m a huge fan of Tom Hardy – I actually can’t think of any film of his that I didn’t enjoy (I haven’t seen ‘This Means War’ to be fair) – so imagine my excitement when I realised there would be TWO Tom Hardy’s in this Kray twins story. I was hoping beyond hope that this could be another ‘Bronson’, or better yet, a chance for Hardy to bring a piece of every great character he’s portrayed and mould them into two rather sizeable characters. I wanted brutal violence – two hours of one-sided brawling and monstrous punches. I was to be left disappointed in that respect.
This isn’t so much a story of the Kray twins, but a story about living with the Kray twins, from the perspective of Reggie’s wife, Frances (Emily Browning). We get up close and personal with Reggie and Ronnie (both played by Hardy), as they build their East End empire, but even closer to the relationships they build in the process. Ronnie is a paranoid schizophrenic and a homosexual, but first and foremost, he is an erratic gangster. Reggie on the other hand, is desperate to distance himself from the gangster tag, hoping to go straight and make a living from a legitimate business. But as the two brothers begin to pull in different directions, Ronnie tests his brother’s family values (and patience), and we all know blood is thicker than water.
I was speaking to Hamish Calvert (of HC Movie Reviews) earlier this week and he suggested to me the possibility that Tom Hardy could theoretically be nominated for both these roles during awards season. Whilst that prospect was intriguing, I now see it being highly unlikely. These were two excellent performances, but by no means were they Hardy’s best. I think I preferred, marginally, his portrayal of Ronnie. Not only does he transform his appearance and whole demeanour rather brilliantly – with a protruding lower jaw and simple-minded attitude – but he offers a delightfully odd and ironic humour, which may well have been the best thing about ‘Legend’. You may struggle to understand him at times though; an incomprehensibility that I assume was intentional. As Reggie, he’s charming and commanding at his peak, whilst conveying his eventual unravelling with aplomb. Both are very good performances, but this is Tom Hardy in low-gear in relative to the heights of Bane and Charlie Fucking Bronson. In support, Emily Browning seemed a lot more “out of place” than I think she was intended to be. I get that she didn’t really belong in the mobster life, but her performance felt so reluctant and forced. Taron Egerton though, is fantastic and very entertaining as Ronnie’s sidekick and lover. After this, I will be keen to see the talented young actor in ‘Kingsman’.
In terms of direction and the way the whole production is put together, ‘Legend’ is actually quite stylish and clever, with plenty of excellent shots and sequences. Combine this with a wonderful soundtrack, and the whole thing ties together to be a very accomplished project. For me, the only problem was in the approach to the story, which as I mentioned wasn’t what I anticipated. The same thing happened with ‘The Theory Of Everything’, where we see iconic figures from the perspective of those closest to them, and whilst both of these films were still enjoyable and interesting, my personal opinion is that I would rather see through the eyes of the subject. My slight aversion to this chosen format wasn’t helped by the fact that Emily Browning’s voice-over was somewhat irritating and distracting. Indeed, the film would probably have benefited from a classic, chronological reference flashing up at the foot of the scene, rather than Browning’s overly poetic narrative.
Once again, those conniving trailer pushers had deceived me and I’m sure, many others. Their promise of fisticuffs and knockout blows had fallen short, replaced by soap opera-esque drama. Only two fight scenes actually make it into the 2 hour run time -one is fantastically violent, and the other is absolutely bizarre; a literally laugh out loud, weird and wonderful scuffle between the two brothers. I can’t imagine this film appealing to anyone outside the UK, with ‘Legend’ having a very strong, deliberately British feel to it. It may not have been what I envisaged, but as a dramatic biopic, this is an accomplished piece of filmmaking and should warrant a trip to the cinema.