A true story, two brothers who dominated the London crime scene, who were greatly feared and whose controversial fame nearly earned them a celebrity status in the 60s. But rather than the Kray brothers’ story, this was presented as Tom Hardy’s movie, and so it was, because the London born actor’s unique dual interpretation of twin gangsters Ronnie and Reggie really is the pillar that holds Legend together.
The 38 year-old movie star from Inception, Warrior and The Dark Knight Rises, made use of all his talent and charm to deliver an outstanding performance and portray both the Kray twins so effectively that it is possible, at times throughout the film, to forget that Ronnie and Reggie are being played by the same actor. Hardy’s performance is the highest note in a gangster biopic that often lacks thrill, whose plot is frequently toneless and only slowly develops, and whose humour, which at first seems witty and captivating, soon becomes redundant.
In this film, the voice of Frances Shea, Reggie Kray’s girlfriend, narrates the rise and fall of the two gangsters, who were involved in a range of criminal activities in the sixties, including fraud, racketeering and murder, and managed to avoid imprisonment in many occasions, also thanks to Ronnie’s controversial relationships with some political figures of that time. Frances also tells the dramatic story of the twins lives and of her own life from an intimate point of view, showing how the brothers tried to deal with Ronnie’s mental illnesses, without success, and how her marriage with Reggie tragically ended with her suicide, when she realised her husband would never stop being a gangster.
The decision of director Brian Helgeland to stick to the real events of the Kray’s lives and to introduce only few fictional elements might be the reason why Legend, which features remarkable performances: Emilie Browning as Frances, David Thewlis as the Kray’s manager Leslie and Christopher Ecclestone as detective Read, photography, special effects, and is technically a movie of a very fine quality, lacks that something special that has made some gangster films into milestones of the international cinema, and its original elements, e.g. being a British film, featuring a dual role and being told by Frances’ point of view, do not entirely compensate the lack of plot twists, suspense and excitement that were perhaps in the audience’s expectations.
This movie contains entertaining scenes, humorous and even moving ones, and displays Tom Hardy’s acting talent at its best. However, it leaves you very indecisive on what to make of it, and with a vague sense of disappointment, perhaps due to the big publicity that it received before it came out. Whereas Hardy’s performance lives up to all the expectations, everything else hardly does so.
By Federico Cornetto