STARRING: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, Taron Egerton, Paul Bettany, Colin Morgan, David Thewlis, Chazz Palminteri, Aneurin Barnard, Paul Anderson, Tara Fitzgerald and Kevin McNally
The film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.
Legend focuses not only on the story of the Kray twins Reggie and Ronnie during their organised crime empire in the 1960’s, it also focuses on the relationship between Reggie Kray and Frances Shea, with the story being narrated from Frances’s point of view as we follow their rise to power as the notorious gangsters of London.
Legend is a film that has Tom Hardy at the front and centre of it’s focus…as both the Kray twins Reggie and Ronnie, it almost feels like his performance alone should make the film worthwhile viewing. That will be true here with Legend, unfortunately the remainder of the film can’t match up to the impression Tom Hardy makes whenever he’s off screen. The film at least avoids the childhood upbringing of the Krays and takes us straight into the 60’s East End where Reggie is ‘the gangster prince of the East End’ and Ronnie is believed to be a violent schizophrenic though it doesn’t take Reg long to find a psychiatrist, and have him threatened into certifying Ron sane.
The film rests firmly on Tom Hardy’s shoulders and he does a tremendous job of transforming into Reginald and Ronald Kray, the dual role fitting him perfectly in terms of showing his range in two separate character arcs, where Reggie is the cool and collective charmer who is calculated with when to bring out his violent streak whereas Ronnie is a storm of brewing violence that Reggie tries to keep contained, at times providing some dark humour to the film. The film splits the relationship between the Kray brothers with the relationship between Reggie and Frances, with Emily Browning providing the narration to, at times, some bad lines to read out and though providing a vulnerable yet playful performance to Frances, she’s very limited on what the character has to do when on screen. The rest of the cast are fine in their performances, though it’s unfortunate that they literally remain background characters, well except for perhaps David Thewlis in the role of Leslie Payne and Taron Egerton as ‘Mad Teddy’.
Set in 60’s London the set designs are great and the film itself in terms of cinematography is beautifully shot, even during a brawl sequence involving hammers and knuckledusters. While the film feels too long, the story itself feels too safe in regards to humanising Reggie and yet in one specific scene where act of violence occurs, we’re taken out of the room in order to not see what happens. After learning that this scene in particular allegedly never occurred in real life puzzles me more so as to why to take us there and then pull out of the violence about to happen. For a film about the Krays it feels very Americanised in its execution, particularly in the scene where Reggie takes Frances out on a date that gives us shades of Goodfellas in an instant and at times the violence itself can feel cartoonish.
Tom Hardy gives an electric performance as both Kray twins that elevate an okay story that feels unsure of how far they really wanted to go with portraying them on the big screen. 7/10