Writer/Director Brian Helgeland’s Legend tells the now infamous story of London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray. It’s an uneven film that’s held together by Tom Hardy’s dual performance as the brothers. On the surface it seems like a gimmick, but Hardy is able to create distinct characters for both Ronnie and Reggie – and that’s ultimately what makes the film worth seeing.
Based on John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence, Legend is narrated by Emily Browning’s Frances, the wife of Reggie Kray. It charts the couple’s volatile relationship and illustrates how the two brothers built their criminal legacy in the east end of London.
The main problem with Legend is that it tries to cover two much ground and it’s unsure on how to focus the narrative. Helgeland wants to follow the story of Reggie and Frances, but he’s equally interested in showing the complex relationship of Reggie and Ronnie. That means the film feels disjointed and the voice-over by Browning appears to be a way to connect the storylines. It’s as if Helgeland only saw how great Hardy was in the editing and tried to make more out of his twin roles after shooting had ended.
A dark humour plays through Legend and this gives the film a lot of charm. You could argue that it glorifies violence but the film contains some good moments. There’s a great fight in the middle of the film where Ronnie and Reggie go head-to-head. It’s comical and violent but it might just be the highlight of the movie.
Legend is another retelling of an oft-told tale. It’s well made and well acted but it features many of the usual beats found on London gangland movies. It might have the Oscar-winning clout of Brian Helgeland and the star power of Tom Hardy but it struggles to feel fresh. Having said all that – Tom Hardy is great.
The blu-ray of Legend comes with a plethora of interviews with cast and crew – however Tom Hardy is notable by his absence. You also get short featurettes on the Krays, the world premiere and an interactive map. Not bad.