Tom Hardy plays both Kray twins in the British answer to Goodfellas. A highly stylish and well acted gruesome look into the ups and downs of life and love in the east end of London in the 1960’s.
We join Reggie Kray as he is on the rise in the East End of London, he deals with his troubled brother Ronnie, his romantic interest Francis while maintaining legitimate and criminal activities. We see Reggie as he dispatches enemies while having those closest to him pose him greater concerns. As the 2+ hour runtime rolls on, different chapters in the Krays life unfold and we switch between Reggie and Francis as the focal point for the film, held together by the unreliable narration of Francis herself. By the end of the film, we are exhausted but satisfied as most loose ends are tied up
It’s a close tie between two films early in the film. On one hand we have Reggie taking Francis out for the first time where we are treated to a long tracking shot as Reggie weaves his way around his nightclub, his notoriety and popularity on display as he greets all those around him, is shadowed by silent cronies and deals with business in a particularly brutal way while surrounded by elegance and displaying charm and control. The other scene involves a pint, hammers and some classic one liners. Each are worth the price of admission and set the tone for the film.
Tom Hardy is perfection. By playing both Kray twins, he could have easily turned the film into a sideshow circus act as he talks to himself. Instead he has mastercrafted two defined characters. In Reggie we are given a cool, stylish and controlled character. In Ronnie, Hardy is almost unrecognisable, manic and constantly threatening. Strangely Ronnie is perhaps the most logical of the characters in the film but at the crux of everything is Hardy’s performance. I’m still waiting for Hardy to really drop the ball, right now, he is untouchable.
The film is over 2 hours and that does lead to a bit of fatigue as the film slowly rolls through its second act. At times I was unsure where the film was going and while everything had a pay off at the end, it felt like director Brian Helgeland was attempting to create the great British crime film, but the restrictions of history mean the film is confined to a set of events that don’t hold the same gravity as some of their US counterparts.
The Round Up:
I was hoping for Legend to be one of my favourite films of the year and it will likely stick in my mind for a long time, but it perhaps didn’t hit the heights of some other films this year. Between Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton and a rogues gallery of British heavies, the acting is high class. The setting, the language and the style on display set Legend apart from many of the other gangsta films released this year.