Joseph Austin reviews the biopic of the notorious Kray twins.
You can never have too much of a good thing, especially when that good thing is Tom Hardy.
In writer-director Brian Helgeland’s Legend, Hardy turns in a fascinating yet farcical performance as suave tough guy Reggie and the immensely psychotic Ronnie; the notorious Kray twins who terrorised London during the 1950s and 60s.
But, although Helgeland’s rise and fall tale about these infamous and iconic mobsters is filled with all the brutal brashness and cockney clout one would expect from a film about the Krays, Legend rather falls short compared to its peers as a gangster classic.
The film is narrated by Reggie’s wife Francis, played by Emily Browning (Sucker Punch), who fills you in on who and what these two men are – gangsters.
One’s a nice guy, one’s “off his rocker”.
They’re criminals but it’s just the way things are.
This pointing out the obvious voiceover becomes rather tedious after a while, despite Browning’s best efforts.
Helgeland’s film is as much about Frances as it is about the Krays, as the film attempts to tell us about the East End twins from an unbiased outsider’s point of view.
But this narrative prang seems to slow down the pace of the story and Frances’ character is severely underwritten.
She could have easily played as large and important a part without these mechanical monologues.
Legend likes to state the obvious though.
It really does want to let you know that yes, this is the unmistakable 60s but look, there’s a Ford Cortina and oh, is that The Meters’ ‘Cissy Strut’ playing on the soundtrack.
Hardy saves the day though.
He goes all in with his portrayal of both Kray brothers.
It showcases Hardy’s talents perfectly, with both the classy-ish Reggie and the catastrophic Bronson-like Ronnie.
This film should be seen for Hardy’s performance alone.
He’s spectacular as Reggie; swooning around in sharp suits with slick back hair, sucking on cigarettes like each one is his last.
He also gets the business done on the gangster side of things too; switching from all round nice guy to ultra-violent thug in a matter of seconds, reminding you that he is, in fact, also a bad guy.
Terrifying yet twistedly amusing is Hardy’s performance as Ronnie, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, homosexual and outright proper gangster – well, that’s how he refers to himself anyway.
Ronnie’s character in Helgeland’s picture is jarring in so much that you’re unsure whether to laugh at, or feel sorry for, this brutish chunk of a man who’s so clearly lost in his own mind that he doesn’t know right from wrong.
Ultimately, though, the film suffers from a muddled tone that on one hand glamorises the life of a 60s crime boss while on the other reducing the Krays’ lives to not that much at all.
Displaying each of their lengthy prison sentences, and stating when they died on screen at the end of the film, sums up the Krays’ so-called legend and definitely shoots this gangster film’s title in the foot.