Last seen on the big screen in the 1990s, the infamous Kray twins are back with Tom Hardy on double duty, stepping into the roles of both Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland and based on John Pearson’s 1972 book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins. With a considerably bigger budget expect biopic Legend to be a slicker and more brutal affair.
The film begins with the Kray twins (both played by Hardy) at the height of their power, bypassing the usual glance of earlier years and amongst a turf war, the film focuses on Reggie’s struggle to control his increasingly psychopathic brother, Ronnie, as he attempts to protect the empire they had once built together. It is not only the brother’s relationship that is strained, Reggie’s wife Frances Shea (Emily Browning) struggles to cope with her husband’s absence and violent lifestyle.
The film is narrated by Frances, which should have offered a women’s perspective, however, unfortunately, it descends into cliché after cliché. Structurally, the film is disjointed and never really takes off, remaining relatively entertaining nevertheless. Moments of brutality are undercut with comedy, which at times may be cartoonish, but does prevent the film from dragging. What Legend lacks structurally, it makes up for visually with nods to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Unfortunately never reaching the heights of those films, Legend remains visually sleek, recreating swinging 1960s London with style.
Tom Hardy is as compelling as ever, playing cool and crazy with ease. The scenes in which Ronnie and Reggie are both present are seamlessly put together and it is their relationship that is most engrossing, as the unwavering loyalty that bound them together and defined them is put to the test, time and time again. Although Hardy is in good company with Browning giving an understated performance and a plethora of actors such as Christopher Eccleston, Paul Bettany and David Thewlis in supporting roles, nobody else stands out. In part, because they were not given the screen time to do so but mainly because Hardy’s performances are so captivating, there was no chance of him being overshadowed.
Legend is flawed and the rise and fall of the Krays is an overfamiliar story. However, a committed Tom Hardy shines in a dual role that showcases his talents superbly.