Producer: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis & Brian Oliver.
Distributed by: Universal Pictures.
Writer: Brian Helgeland.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston & Paul Bettany.
Music: Carter Burwell.
Editing: Peter McNulty.
Cinematography: Dick Pope.
Budget: $25 million.
Box Office: $41.6 million.
Runtime: 2 hrs 12 mins.
Release Date: September 9th 2015
Legend had been a film I was anticipating, as its a biopic bout the notorious Kray twins; Ronnie and Reggie who ruled the criminal underworld of London in the 1960s. Another reason I was looking forward to Legend was that Tom Hardy, who has had a fantastic year with Mad Max: Fury Road and Child 44 would be starring as not just one of the twins, but both of the Kray twins in a double performance (a fine example of an actor playing two characters simultaneously would be Armie Hammer in The Social Network, where he played the Winklevoss Twins).Behind Legend, we also have director Brian Helgeland, who directed the 2013 Jackie Robinson biopic 42, as well as writing various other flicks such as the aforementioned 42, L.A. Confidential, the 2010 Robin Hood & The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Finally, joining the roster is some British talent, such as Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston and Paul Bettany. With so much prestige, is Legend any good?
Legend takes place in 1950s and 1960s London where the gangster twins Reggie Kray and Ronnie Kray are climbing their way to more power in London. Reggie is smart and level-headed, but Ronnie is mentally disturbed with psychopathic tendencies, but the two make a great pairing with the ambition to rule London while out-witting Leonard Reed, the police detective who has tasked with bringing them in. One day, Reggie meets 16 year- old Francis and the two fall in love, leaving him with a reason to leave the criminal underworld, but Ronnie is torn between the gangster lifestyle he loves and the bond with his twin brother who is determined to keep his brother on the immoral path.
Legend is a brilliant film overall and the best thing that holds the film together is Tom Hardy’s amazing, convincing powerhouse of a performance as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. He truly gets lost in both roles and really is quite chilling at points, particularly as Ronnie; the more unstable and corrupt brother. Originally, Helgeland wanted Hardy to play Reggie, however the actor found Ronnie to be the more interesting character, until the two decided to put both ideas together and now we have Hardy playing both characters.
It is immediately apparent that Ronnie is the character that Tom Hardy enjoys portraying most the most and feels more comfortable with, as Ronnie is a more intimidating character. His psychopathic nature is the standout of the film, as he sent shivers down my spine and Ronnie easily gets some quotable lines; some of the best of the year! Reggie however, seems to be the more romanticized of the two and Hardy gives a great, human but still ruthless performance, especially when he starts to side with his brother. Unfortunately, Tom Hardy didn’t get nominated for Best Actor for the twins, that is so frustrating because it seems like the roles Hardy really is good in, he doesn’t even get awards recognition!
As expected, the cast are uniformly great, as expected. Emily Browning does a great job at portraying Francis; a character who grows unattached to Reggie as he becomes coaxed back into the underworld. She also works well with Tom Hardy and credit must go to her for being able to sell a damaged relationship. Francis also narrates the film which helps to give the story a personal hook, as it is told through the point of view of her so the audience get a one-on-one connection with her. The supporting cast are good, but limited in terms of screen-time, as Christopher Eccleston as Leonard Reed feels like he should be an important character and have a huge part to play, however he isn’t in the film that much so his character looses impact and doesn’t become as important as he should be. Paul Bettany and Taron Egerton’s characters suffer from the same fate as Leonard Reed; they don’t get enough screen-time to establish a character.
Legend is an engaging watch, as the story of the Krays flows smoothly, however throughout the end, I was finding the 2 hour 12 minutes to be a bit of a chore to sit through (I repeat; this is for near the end of the film, not all through the film!) However, not all of the film is like this and the story of the Krays is parcelled out appropriately for the audience.
Legend is directed stylishly by Brian Helgeland and his direction allows the viewer to see the dark underbelly of the criminal underworld in London. However, not all of the streets are seedy as the streets and houses show a sense of class and charm. The inside of Reggie’s club is nicely shot and lit and shows a great sense of atmosphere. I don’t recall any of Cater Burwell’s music however I remember how violent this movie is!
The violence is used to great effect in Legend, from the twins having a brutal and wince-inducing fight in a bar that includes brass knuckles, a hammer and bottles, to Reggie and Ronnie having a one-on-one fight, the film enhances greatly from its 18 rating. As a result, the makeup is implemented well.
Legend as a true story does well at upholding the infamous legacy of these two “legends”. These two get involved in some bad stuff and the film does show some of that. I would’ve liked to of seen more horrific stuff happen, to truly make the 18 certificate justified, but the Legend still works so that’s a minor problem. The film also doesn’t show the actual downfall of the Krays and instead chooses to reveal it in text at the credits. This works well as it can persuade the viewer to do some intense research on the Krays afterwards. I have and it’s fascinating stuff!
Overall, Legend is a brilliant biopic that is bolstered by Tom Hardy effortlessly portraying the Kray twins in an Oscar defining role and he brings a chilling and psychopathic nature; especially to Ronnie. There some superb lines of dialogue, some of it quotable, coupled with some excellent use of makeup and violence. Brian Helgeland brings the seedy and dark underbelly, as well as a charming side to London on the big screen. The supporting characters feel like missed opportunities and the third act is a bit of a drag somewhat but all in all, Legend is an effective biopic and it will have you researching the twins afterwards for sure!
Just fun, here is a picture of the Kray twins: