‘Everybody had a story about the Krays…’
Me and my wife have a system. I watch my ‘boy’ films by myself. Typically something involving Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Transformer. She watches her ‘girl’ films by herself (usually something involving teenage girls being in a cult – she’s weird like that) and always with a bottle of wine. Together we watch stuff that we think we will both enjoy. Because time is at a premium however, this often results in films being sat in my watchlist for months because I can’t persuade my wife to watch them right now but she might want to watch it later. This was not the case with Legend. With Legend, all I had to say was ‘two Tom Hardy’s’ and that was that…
The Kray twins were perhaps the most notorious gangsters to come out of London in the ’60s. Combining legitimate business with celebrity status enabled the Krays to continue their criminal lifestyle for a lot longer than should have been possible. As with seemingly all gangsters however, their inevitable downfall was swift and spectacular.
There was an opportunity for American director Brian Helgeland to add a distinctly British slant to the well worn gangster trope but, instead, he apes familiar genre classics such as Goodfellas and Casino – indeed anything involving or inspired by master director Martin Scorsese. Legend veers between homage and rip off and if not for Tom Hardy’s undoubtedly compelling performance and a genuinely impressive supporting cast, there would be little to admire about this uneven biopic.
Hardy’s turn cannot be ignored however, the versatile actor bringing nuance and flair to both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. So much so that is easy to forget that both Krays twins are bring played by the same actor. Elsewhere, it is thrilling to see Chazz Palminteri returning to the genre that made him so beloved and Emily Browning does a good job with a frankly badly written character in the shape of Reggie’s doting and long suffering wife Frances. Christopher Eccleston, Taron Egerton and Peaky Blinders’ Paul Anderson round off a supporting cast that leaves the lingering feeling that Legend simply isn’t as good as the sum of its parts.
Legend would be a poor film without Tom Hardy, with him it is worth watching. This is a testament to Hardy’s undoubted star power. There are few better actors working in Hollywood right now.