Review - Legend
By midlandsmovies, Sep 19 2015 01:09PM
Legend (2015) Dir. Brian Helgeland
A pair of dirty mobsters…talk to me! Grisly gangland gruesomeness abound in this new film from writer/director Brian Helgeland (Payback, writer of Mystic River & LA Confidential)about the notorious Kray twins who glamorised and terrorised London in the swinging sixties.
Excitingly, the grim brothers are played by the skilful Tom Hardy, an actor who balances art-house indie ventures with huge blockbuster roles such as Mad Max & The Dark Knight Rises and here he gives a Jekyll & Hyde performance as Reggie and Ronnie. Reggie is shown as the calmer of the two (though that’s not saying much) whilst Ron’s psychotic tendencies explode in violence, ramblings and a fragile mental state.
Already denounced by those who were there as a bit of a whitewash (the brothers were less of an extreme and collaborated more than they conflicted) the film leaves a certain amount of reality at the door to create a more compelling narrative. The film’s centre point is Reggie’s marriage to Frances Shea who is played with wide-eyed innocence by Emily Browning and focuses on their fiery relationship. The film contrasts the bloody violence of warring gangs, nasty fights and under the table dodgy nightclub dealings with the “ordinary” life of the couple and the turmoil both lives bring as they intertwine.
Hardy is on magnificent form here though. Whilst Paul Bettany is wasted in a brief appearance, Hardy steals the show with a fantastic attempt to differentiate the characters enough whilst the technical effect to place the actor in each scene is so seamless that you do not give it a second thought. Reminding yourself that it is in fact two actors, the film is Hardy-centric but suffers whenever he is off screen. Luckily he’s in most of the scenes in some way. Chris Eccleston plays a copper trying to bring the brothers to justice but it’s hardly a beefy plot point and could have done with a bit more screen time as he pops up randomly after being introduced in the first scene. I’m thinking something more akin to the cat and mouse of Hanks-DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can.
That’s merely speculation though as the film follows the brothers through the major points in their life with increasing tension and fighting (both with others and within the gang). One negative is clearly the pantomime nature of some of the characters. Subtlety is sometimes thrown from the window as Hardy’s version of Ronnie veers close to TV’s ‘Phonejacker’ Terry Tibbs with comedy cockney banter and rather odd dialogue. That said, a scene within a bar was a hilarious back and forth that literally had me in tears of laughter (intentional? I don’t know) before descending into a bloody and bruising battle in a boozer.
One thing to mention is that it clearly has influences from Goodfellas. Long tracking shots of Reggie & Frances entering a bar and sitting at a table appeared a direct reference whilst the atmospheric lounge music appeared similar to Scorsese’s use of popular tunes sound-tracking his scenes.
Not flinching from Ronnie’s homosexuality, the film also shows the demons that plagued both brothers coming to terms with their situation but eventually both of them succumb to their worst instincts.
Legend is a film that won’t be vying for best gangster flick anytime soon and sometimes Hardy is the only watchable thing in it but that is no bad thing at all. Taking two roles and blending them for comedy and tragedy, this is Hardy’s picture throughout and it’s a slight shame the film isn’t as narratively entertaining as that. With wit, heartbreak and brutality vying for their positions in the film, Legend is a tonal jumble but one that can be forgiven when it’s done this entertaining.
Midlands Movies Mike