Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston
Release: September, 2015
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 3/5 cans of Guinness
I said in before in my Straight Outta Compton review that biopic movies are not my cup of tea as they have the tendency to only give a synopsis of the story they are trying to tell and usually fabricate many elements. Legend unfortunately not only doesn’t break away from these traits, it actually wears them comfortably. The story of the Kray twins is a long and very interesting one, so I understand that it has to be condensed to fit the films run time but it’s the liberties that Director Brian Helgeland employs that irks me. However, now that my little tantrum is over, I can say that Legend is actually a pretty entertaining flick with some solid performances.
Legend follows the story of the twin brothers Reggie and Ronnie Kray who are two established gangsters in the East End of London. Reggie is charismatic but thuggish, while Ronnie is an unhinged psychotic. The story of Legend is narrated by Reggie’s true love, Frances, who adores him but despises the world he operates in. It’s through Frances eyes we see the juxtaposition between the glamour and the violence.
Visually the film is great and is a great depiction of what the London East End would have looked like in the 60’s. Even the interior of the houses from the curtains to the wallpaper has that 60’s vibe to it that we see in our grandparent’s house. The costume designer also has to be praised for the abundance of flashy looking suits and dresses on display. The score for the film is also a throwback to that time which I really appreciated.
Tom hardy is the highlight of Legend masterfully playing two very different brothers. While you know they are both twins you can easily tell which Kray brother is which (great work by the FX team) by subtle differences in their appearances. Hardy has to be praised for delivering a double performance and putting a different stamp on each character, neither of which outshines the other. Emily Browning gives a strong performance as Frances, Reggie’s girlfriend then wife, however the character suffers from an inconsistent writing as we are to believe she is a fragile and gentle creature yet in some scenes I saw her as rather strong-willed and a capable match for Reggie.
There are some really great scenes in Legend and the FX team has to be commended for seamlessly sharing two Hardy’s on screen together (there’s a scene where both brothers are fighting which really impresses). Ronnie Kray is probably the highlight of the film producing most of the laughs and shock value, while I found it odd that he was the comic relief of the film considering he’s an utter psychopath he definitely struck a chord with the audience as everyone in the screening I was at hung onto his every word.
Unfortunately, Legend is a poorly wrapped gift, as much as its enjoyable and has some great moments it’s also rather poorly presented and wrapped together. The film never really establishes how the Krays illicit activities operated and the timeline for events are never established. The film instead focuses a bit too much on the brother’s dynamic which rinse and repeats itself (Ronnie causes a mess and Reggie has to clean it up). I would like to have seen more of Christopher Eccleston as Nipper Read the man who took down the Krays; he only ever appears as a side character which downplays his significance.
There was a film released in 1990 called The Krays starring Martin and Gary Kemp from the band Spandau Ballet which is also based on the Kray twins. It’s not that well-known and probably made on a low-budget yet I feel it is the better film about the Krays as it tells a more cohesive story and includes the interesting dynamic the twins had with they’re mother which is strangely absent from Legend.
All in all Legend is a good but not great film, it definitely has some thrilling moments and can shock you as well as make you laugh but it’s unfocused and disjointed direction which holds the film back. Helgeland had plenty of material to work with but many of the Krays most infamous escapades are absent from Legend.