The promise of not one but 2 Tom Hardys in “Legend” is hard to ignore. Tom Hardy is on point playing Reggie and Ronnie Kray, a pair of gangster brothers. Set in the East End of London during the 1960’s, the story revolves around the short rise and fall of the Kray twins.
The admittedly familiar recount of the ‘gangsters rising to fame’ with London’s most notorious gangsters is shown in film’s stereotypically romanticised view of organised crime in “Legend”. The characters seem present on screen only as caricature.
Playing as Reggie, Hardy takes on a charming façade as a gang lord with violent tendencies s surfacing throughout the movie. Like in the books, The Professions of Violence, Reggie displays violence almost calculatedly. However, his infamous cigarette punch is an example where the movie loosely and poorly demonstrates the depth of the characters.
As for Ronnie, he is portrayed as almost cartoonish with psychotic tendencies. The bespectacled character can be as menacing as his brother, with his mouth running ahead of him. Hardy as Ronnie might even be more menacing than Hardy as Reggie with his twitchy violence.
“I’m ‘omosexual,” he tells Reggie’s startled fiancée, Frances (Emily Browning).
“Legend” is a biopic on a grand scale with the lifestyles of the brothers shown in a glamourised and sexed-up fashion as they extend their gang’s influence from the East to the West End of London. As casino and club owners, they brought attention to themselves by flaunting their gangsterism. The flippant displays end up marking them as targets to other gangsters and Detective Superintendent “Nipper” Read (Christopher Eccleston): the brothers’ fall is inevitable.
The collapse of the empire however is largely thanks to Ronnie due to his psychotic tendencies. The two brothers are strikingly different: Ronnie did not crave the wealth and fame as much as Reggie did. He liked the chaos and violence that came from conquering London. Reggie however, liked the respect and attention. Reggie couldn’t control Ronnie and the younger twin didn’t want to restrict Ronnie despite the paranoid brother dragging Reggie down. It’s a power highlight of the strength of twins’ relationship as they stood against and over London
But “Legend” is actually not a thoroughly factual and realistic recount of the notorious Kray twins and their misdeeds so the claim to be a biopic seems a stretch at best. Oddly, it focuses plenty on the love story of Reggie and Frances. Emily Browning as Frances narrates the story as Reggie’s wife- a poor attempt by director Brian Helgeland to cater for the mass audience. Although Frances provides an emotional core to the story, she has minor importance to the tragedy of the brothers past Reggie’s grief, diluting the strength of “Legend”.
“Legend” provides a bizarre but vibrant (and somehow charming) take on London’s most notorious gangsters with the focus of the love story of one brother as a distracting side-line story. Having said that, catching glimpses of the gut wrenching moments of Frances is worth it. The innocent lamb for slaughter, caught between the madness of two brothers fighting their inner demons as well as society as their precariously conquer London for a short time commands surprising attention.
DANamic.ORG Rating: 3/5
Written by guest writer: Hemalashvini Ragoo