Brian Helgeland’s Legend seems like an almost tailor-made vehicle for its star Tom Hardy. The films hook, of Hardy playing both male leads, allows him to display his immense talent for portraying both subtle, nuanced, dark characters and wild, over-the-top eccentrics at the same time. Hardy has, for a while now, been one of the best actors to come out of Britain but Legend really showcases his talents perfectly.
Legend tells the story of infamous London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray (both Hardy), Ronnie the more level-headed business-minded leader of the gang and Reggie the mentally unstable thug who wants nothing more than sheer violence. The film tells their story from the middle rather than the beginning, this is because the Kray Twins are not the main characters of the story, Ronnie’s wife Frances is, played marvellously by Emily Browning. The plot picks up at the point just before the couple meet with the Krays already established mobsters. Conveniently this also coincides with Reggie being released from a mental institute to add the tension the film requires to progress interestingly, with the majority of the film involving Ronnie’s attempts to keep Reggie under control and repairing any damage he does while trying to balance his romantic life, all of which we see through the innocent eyes of Frances. Legend, rather than being the typical rise and fall gangster tale is just the gradual fall from grace of the Krays.
However it is the performances, rather than the plot which truly make Legend an engaging watch. Tom Hardy is fantastic in both roles to the point where both characters feel like they’re being played by separate actors. While he will likely be more remembered as Reggie whose larger than life personality gives the film most of its comedic moments Hardy’s Ronnie as also a fascinating watch, ugateamunited.com/online/aciphex/ altogether more real than the almost cartoonish Reggie. It should be pointed out that the effects are seamless with both characters interacting together flawlessly, demonstrated best during a fistfight between the two mid-film. Emily Browning puts in an eye catching performance as Frances that really makes us feel for the once naïve girl Ronnie brings down into the criminal underworld. Taron Egerton steals scenes as Reggie’s sidekick Mad Teddy while there are also fantastic supporting performances from the likes of David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Christopher Eccleston and Chazz Palminteri. Sam Spruell is worth mentioning also for his role as ‘Jack the Hat’, a minor (but important) character who is part of a running joke throughout the film which ends with a brutal “punch line”.
Legend juggles both comedy, drama and action expertly with the film shifting between being unexpectedly hilarious and brutally violent, often in the same scene, without letting one of the balls drop. However at times the choice of shots can seem dull, if it weren’t for the occasional brilliant longer shot or more inventive scene sprinkled throughout the film this wouldn’t be a noticeable issue. Legend also often looks slightly cheap, with sets seeming like just that – sets. There’s nothing wrong with filming on sets however the idea is to make them appear real, a trick the film doesn’t quite manage to pull off, the result being everything looking a bit smaller scale than the film’s title deserves. The movie does run a shade too long also, but not so long you’ll be checking the time during the third act.
All-in-all Legend is a solid, though not perfect, movie that’s worth checking out for some wonderful performances. A must-see for fans of British gangster movies who are sure to love it for its swagger and surprising amount of humour.