OldKingClancy posted a MOVIE REVIEW item: 5 months ago



Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis
Studio: Universal Pictures
Genre: Biography, Crime, Thriller
Official Site:
Plot: Starring Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy


When you’ve watched as many movies as I have you start to pick up on a few things that average moviegoers might not pay attention to, one such element is how a great actor can make all the difference in a movie. A great actor can elevate a good movie, or save a bad one, and in the case of Legend, Tom Hardy absolutely saves this movie.

The biggest problem is the story and the fact that it feels like a greatest hits of the Krays rather than a coherent narrative, there’s just too much going on and the film suffers from lack of focus. From the opening narration you would expect Reggie’s future wife Francis to be the main character but she comes across like an afterthought, the volatile relationship between Ronnie and Reggie also could’ve been a worth wile thread to follow but after one early fight the twins don’t have much else to do with each other until the final act. Add to that the introduction of the American Mafia, the police detective investigating the Krays, the political influences the brothers were able to apprehend and the remnants of a rival gang causing trouble and you have a film that’s trying to do everything at once.

And I can understand why that would be enticing, the Krays did a lot of horrible things and got away with it for so long and they’re a fascinating look at one of the earliest crime families in Britain. But to do them any justice you need a lot longer than two hours, I’m talking like miniseries length because as this film shows putting too much into too little can destroy a film.

Sadly a by-product of the unfocussed storyline is that most of the supporting cast gets sidelined. Paul Bettany has a fun cameo as Charles Richardson, an early rival for the Krays who enjoyed mock trials for his victims. Chazz Palminteri had a small role as mafia representative Angelo Bruno but his part was way too small to be of any note. Christopher Eccleston gets a thankless role as Leonard Reed, the cop that took the Krays down but his three scenes didn’t add up to much. Taron Egerton plays Mad Teddy Smith, Ronnie’s lover and he seems to have fun with the part but again, not a lot to him, David Thewlis has more to work with as Leonard Payne, the Kray’s business manager who struggled to keep control of Ronnie, out of all the supporting characters he felt like he most needed more screentime.

Emily Browning gets the worst treatment as Francis, Reggie’s girlfriend and later wife. From what the film builds up you expect her to have a much bigger part but in truth her presence is barely felt, if it wasn’t for her narration I would’ve thought she was just another casualty of Hardy’s performance but because the film has her be the narrator it gives the impression that she’s suppose to be this important character when in truth she doesn’t really have all that much to do, she marries Reggie, suffers from depression and becomes a pill-popper, even based in truth that’s a very familiar character type, the depressed mob wife, and it’s been done before and better.

Thankfully though, as already stated, Tom Hardy saves this film with his dual role as Ronnie and Reggie Kray, more than just the effort of playing both role, Hardy makes the both brothers feel like very different characters. With Reggie he plays the smarter brother, a man who knows when to keep quiet and when to blow his lid while as Ronnie, he plays a man who doesn’t know when to hold back. Ronnie is definitely the more interesting character with his paranoid schizophrenia, his awkwardness lack of filter and his childlike mind just wanting to play with his brother but it’s the difference between the two that makes Hardy’s performance work so well, as does the eventual similarities between them as Reggie gets more and more violent trying to cope with his failing marriage and his brother’s actions. Hardy could play either role easily but the fact that he is playing both and he is so great in the two roles is what makes the film worth seeing, I doubt it’ll be remembered as one of his best roles but certainly one of his most entertaining.

The film is directed by Brian Helgeland and to his credit, he doesn’t do a terrible job, the 60s aesthetic is felt throughout, not just in the clothing and the style but with the locations and the streets you feel like it’s that old-fashioned cobblestone aesthetic, everything set too close together to allow for a quick and easy build. It doesn’t dive into the 60s but it does enough to capture the feeling. And Helgeland does manage to showcase some great individual scenes, an early bar-fight has a funny build-up as Ronnie and Reggie know they’re walking into a trap and spring a counter-trap to come out on top and prove themselves as the top gang in London. The fight between Ronnie and Reggie is suitably violent and only gets more so once Ronnie starts to really get into it, similarly when Ronnie takes on a hit on a rival gang member without consulting Reggie leads to a very sudden and violent scene. But the problem of a lack of focus still rings out and these one-off scenes of greatness just serve to showcase just how little the other scenes have to offer to the rest of the film.

I feel bad for calling Legend a bad film because I watched it with a friend who really likes it but I can’t bring myself to call it a good one. Hardy is definitely the best part of it and it’s his double performance that keeps the film from a failing grade while the few bright sparks that Helgeland manages to include help make the film enjoyable in parts. But to fail on such a base level as to not even have a basic plot structure does not do the film any favours and the whole thing collapses as a result. Some restraint to not include every little detail of the Krays life and a tighter focus and this could’ve been a decent crime biopic, as it stands it’s a heavily flawed and forgettable entry into the genre.



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Frosty_86 at 07:29 AM Sep 05

Good review man, I agree with pretty much everything you said. You're absolutely correct about it feeling more like a greatest hits of their lives as oppose to a true narrative. It's a shame because Hardy is pretty excellent here in both roles, I love it when an actor takes dual roles but here it never quite worked on the levels it should have. It was an okay movie that had Hardy not been in it the movie would have been a chore to get through.

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