‘Legend’ is another telling of the rise and fall of gangster twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray in 1950’s east London where the focus is mainly on Reggie Kray, his relationship with his wife and how he coped with Ronnie’s psychotic nature. All whilst building their empire on armed robberies, protection rackets, assault and murder.
Tom Hardy plays both brothers and, as we have known Tom Hardy to be recently, easily manages to give both their own distinctive personalities. As Reggie he was quiet almost to the point of shy but not without taking away the intimidating nature of his gangster persona. Compare this with Ronnie who he made come across as someone who is constantly bewildered with the world around him and always questioning the motives of others most associated with paranoid schizophrenia. The only other time recently that I can think of when an actor played a duel role like this was Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins in the Social Network, and while alright (although a completely different tone for the film) Hardy does more in this case to bring both characters to life in their own right and establish not only both their identities but the impact that they have on each other. Emily Browning was excellent as Reggie Kray’s wife but this really was the Tom Hardy show. The supporting cast were more than competent but it was a shame that both Christopher Eccleston and Paul Bettany didn’t have more screen time.
As with Straight Outta Compton this movie is a complete glamorisation of what the Krays were at that time. There is an attempt to constantly interject comedy into scenarios to play down the seriousness and London and the characters are seen in clean bright colours that give the film more of a pulp feel than what was probably really going on. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on the Krays history but the fact the movie was shot this way leads me to believe (as with Straight Outta Compton) that the narrative has been compromised for something that is on the surface very shiny and not authentic. In this respect both Reggie and Ronnie were made out to be too sympathetic for these gangsters that had no problem with threatening and killing anyone in their way, and while the movie never claims to be a documentary, when you deal with true life events that have been widely reported a balance needs to be struck to keep the picture grounded. Director Brian Helgeland (LA Confidential, Payback, Man on Fire) fails to do this.
As with a lot of movies recently the run time (131 minutes) was too long and as the 3rd act of the film didn’t build up to any sort of suitable payoff, it just felt like as a viewer you were waiting for something that was never coming. A strange decision given the nature of the rest of the film was to exaggerate events and personalities.
That all being said the film is incredibly watchable. The production value is high and it is executed well enough that you can get by even with its flaws. There is a lot of charisma on screen that keeps the viewer engaged but this can only be stretched so far.
The fault with this film lies more with the direction than with execution. It is a very watchable film with fine acting that attempts to make the Krays more sympathetic for the most part but ultimately leaves you wanting more of a finale than is given. Always a problem when glamorising true life stories Legend never finds the right balance between compelling realism and Hollywood fun.