LEGEND (UK//France/18/131mins)

Directed by Brian Helgeland.

Starring Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy,
Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Paul Bettany, David Thwelis,
Christopher Eccleston, Colin Morgan, Chazz Palminteri, John Sessions, Tara Fitzgerald,
Duffy, Shane Attwooll, Sam Spruell.

THE PLOT: London, the 1960s, and twins Ron and Reggie Kray (both Hardy) are make their mark. Generally on people’s foreheads, or through the heart, as the gangsters stake their claim to be kind of the pills, and the thrills, wiping out such famous rivals to the throne as George Cornell (Attwooll) and Jack The Hat McVitie (Spruell), along with any other gun-toting upstart stupid enough to live a life of crime free from the brothers’ grasp. Back at home, Reggie has fallen in love with Frances (Browning), whilst “odd man out” Ron is having a secret affair with Lord Boothby (Sessions), but the loving, and the pills, clearly aren’t working. Meanwhile, the inevitable American mafia connection comes through Angelo Bruno (Palminteri), who might just be able to show the brothers how to get being very wrong so right. Or then again, maybe not.

THE VERDICT : There is little doubt that the Kray twins are fascinating, if horrifying, people and even now, many years after their deaths, there are still mysteries that surround the two men and their actions in the London underworld. The story has been told on screen before, but this time out, it seems that the Kray twins have been undermined by two stellar performances from Tom Hardy.

Hardy is wonderful in the leading roles; charming, magnanimous and quietly frightening as Reggie, and tightly wound, volatile and violent as Ronnie. Hardy makes sure that the audience can always tell the difference between the characters and, while making Reggie reasonable but impatient, makes Ronnie unhinged and unpredictable. Emily Browning does not really have a lot to do – other than narrate the film in a slightly twee manner – but she is fine in the role of Reggie’s love interest Frankie. Christopher Eccleston has an even smaller role as Nipper Read, the police officer who pursued the Krays, and David Thewlis, Paul Bettany and Taron Edgerton turn up at various points in the film.

Brian Helgeland’s screenplay is based on the book ‘The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins’ by John Pearson, but manages to fudge some of the details of the twins’ lives, or perhaps take liberties with the truth for the sake of drama. The dialogue is mostly fine, with Hardy as Reggie bringing much of the warmth to the film, but it is in trying to cover such a large chunk of the twins lives, through the eyes of only one of them, that the film stumbles and begins to feel episodic.

As director, Helgeland has coaxed a stunning performance from Hardy as both twins, but allows the other characters in the film to fall by the wayside. The film tries to focus on the strength of the relationship between Reggie and Ronnie, and the dissolution of the same, but in doing this through the eyes of an outsider – Frankie – the film loses coherence. Stylishly shot and a true period piece, there are times when the music choices in Legend feel a little too on the nose and this, coupled with the film’s scattered feeling, Legend becomes a film that could have been a great yarn, but instead becomes one based on strong performances.

In all, Legend is filled with strong performances – none moreso than Tom Hardy as Reggie and Ronnie Kray – but seems more interested in creating a feel for the times than telling the story of the twins. This means the film ends up feeling scattered, muddled and, oddly, a little like a caricature of itself. Worth seeing for Hardy’s performances, but don’t expect legend to answer any burning questions about the Krays.

Rating: 3/5

Review by Brogen Hayes

LEGEND - Review
3.0Overall Score
  • filmbuff2011

    Not a remake of the Ridley Scott fantasy, Legend is a film that tackles the myths of the infamous Kray Brothers, Reggie and Ronnie. Already the subject of Peter Medak’s 1990 film The Krays, that film was taken from the perspective of their doting mother. She’s very much a background character in Legend, which is instead taken from the perspective of Reggie’s fragile wife Frances (Emily Browning). She first meets Reggie (Tom Hardy) in the East End of London in the 1960s. Taken by his roguish Cockney charms, she falls for him aware of his criminal background. Then she meets his twin brother Ronnie (also Hardy), who has less charm and more danger about him. He’s also quite possibly insane. Together the Krays will rule London’s criminal underworld through casinos and nightclubs. But weary copper Nipper (Christopher Eccleston) is determined to take them down whatever it takes… Legend is based on John Pearson’s book The Profession Of Violence, adapted by American writer/director Brian Helgeland. It’s something of a hit-and-miss film, being really good at times and not so good at others. It’s a bit like the twins themselves: charming and fascinating, but not something you should spend much time with. Taking it from the perspective of decent outsider looking in Frances is an intriuging one, particularly as the story reaches its conclusion. But why should it be taken from the perspective of another person anyway, with added voiceover? We’ve already been there before. Why not just the Krays tell their own story? Watching Hardy, one of the UK’S finest actors, play against himself is a mouth-watering prospect. He injects elements of brutality, ruthlessness, humour and even compassion into both performances. If you initially think the psychotic Ronnie is the real monster, think again. Wearing a prosthetic nose and a pair of glasses as Ronnie to distinguish the two, it’s a performance of two halves that form one whole. These dangerous twin brothers were essentially one and the same. Perhaps that’s why the film is called Legend rather than Legends. Browning brings a good air of decency to the story, even amid all the fights, beatings and murders. There’s also strong support from David Thewlis and Chazz Palminteri, though perhaps not enough of Paul Bettany. But for all the good stuff in the film, there are shortcomings. Helgeland never really gets into the psyche of the Krays and settles on an opinion. Just what made them really tick? An quick wrap-up ending as the film stretches past 2 hours certainly doesn’t provide answers. A good film overall, but it’s a little shallow and needed deeper analysis. ***

  • emerb

    ‘Legend’ is a slick, flashy and glamorous British crime drama written and directed by an American, Brian Helgeland, who wrote ‘L.A. Confidential’ and ‘Mystic River’. It takes us straight back to the mid-1960’s glory days of London where gangsters, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, were all-powerful in the London underworld. At that time, these notorious twin brothers were ruling the West End, the East End and beyond, running clubs and protection rackets, warring with the Richardson family from South London and committing the murders that would put them away for life. ‘Legend’ is a powerful retelling of their remarkable story.

    The Kray brothers remain London’s most celebrated criminals – robbers, racketeers, murderers and arsonists, they rose to prominence in the mid 60’s while running a West End Club where they mixed with celebs like Barbara Windsor and Diana Dors, singers and starlets, politicians and peers – they were figures too big to ignore. They also ruled London’s underworld and were widely known for their viciously violent approach to resolving conflict. They were finally arrested in 1968, convicted of 2 murders and spent the rest of their lives behind bars. Brian Helgeland centres his movie on their wildly differing personalities. Each twin was totally distinct – Ronnie was a murderous psychopath, paranoid,
    often deluded and openly gay (he was also schizophrenic) while Reggie was
    tough, precise and protective of his fragile sibling. The twins were thick as thieves but regularly on the verge of killing each other. Their glamorous lifestyle and tendency to openly celebrate their gangster roots made them heroes in their world but also targets for other gangsters like Eddie Richardson (Paul Bettany) and for the police, let by Detective Superintendent “Nipper” Read (Christoper Eccleston). ‘Legend’ is narrated by Emily Browning’s Frankie and a large part of the film is centred on her romance with Reggie. In the end, the fall of the Kray brothers and the collapse of their empire was inevitable but they certainly left their mark.

    Tom Hardy does an excellent job of playing the two infamously savage Cockney crime lord twins who might have been identical but had very different personalities. His performance is flashy but delicately balanced and credible. As Reggie, he’s solid – a convincing hard-man with big dreams and a well-controlled streak of violence. His Reggie is a suave, charismatically volatile antihero and
    towards the end, there are hints that he suffers from some of the same mental turmoil as his brother. He nails it too, with his performance of Ronnie – a murderous psychopath distrustful of everyone and impossible to predict. Frances Shea, the working-class girl who married Reggie in her teens before succumbing to drugs and depression, acts as the story’s principal female agent. Played by Emily Browning, she adds just the right amount of fragility and determination to the role. Christopher Eccleston is dutiful if under-used as the copper ‘Nipper’ Reed trailing the ruthless duo. Sadly,Tara Fitzgerald as Frankie’s stony-faced mother and Paul Bettany as a rival gangster have all-too-brief appearances. David Thewlis as the brothers’ consigliere makes the most his crucial role. The Kray brothers, as most Londoners know, were undone by the murder of Jack The Hat McVitie, and he comes and goes for most of the film, constantly being beaten to a pulp.

    ‘Legend’ has everything you want from a crime drama. It is violent, gritty but also believable and interesting. One aspect which I found annoying was trying to interpret the cockney slang and very pronounced accents. I found that I missed a lot of what was being said, but maybe that was just me! I like that it attempts to work a female perspective into the predominantly male proceedings, by including Reggie’s innocent wife, Frances, as principal narrator. Music and production values help to recreate 1960s London and the casting of the ever-intriguing Tom
    Hardy as the London villains is sure to be one of the main selling points of the film but popular culture in the UK has always been fascinated by the lurid tale of the Krays and how they dominated the East End, flaunted the Establishment and swaggered about Soho. Admittedly, at 130 mins, I found it too long but I suspect critical attention and word of mouth will ensure brisk business in London, where their ‘legend’ has always been good for publicity. ‘Legend’ is stylish, glossy, engaging and well worth watching.

  • Randy

    A flashy 60s-set flick which benefits from an impressive dual performance by Hardy, atmospheric production design and nice tunes by Carter Burwell and period-set music, but does fall mostly flat when it comes to the script which lacks a punch and excitement and, mostly in the presence of the film’s narrator – Frances (Emily Browning), a character with not much personality to begin with. I wish she had been more than just a mere prop. The film barely touches upon the intriguing life and times of the Kray’s and could’ve used more style and charisma. Instead, it’s just an average movie-going experience. 2/5