“Legend” – a Film Review by Gary Chew
Following up on the 1990 film, The Krays, now comes Legend. Yes, the real life London crime bosses of the 1960s, Ronald and Reginald Kray were, or I should say … are … a legend. This newer picture is, undeniably, a superb vehicle for British actor Tom Hardy to display his remarkable talent playing the dual role of Ronnie and Reggie, the Kray twins. It’s an award-winning performance.
Hardy has shown exceedingly well in earlier films such as: Mad Max: Fury Road; The Drop; Locke and Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy. His first feature film was Black Hawk Down (2001). Hardy also now has in the can another go as Mad Max. And the recent soundings from Daniel Craig suggest to me that Hardy would make a bloody good 007. But Craig is still amazing as Bond, but maybe had enough.
Something Legend has working for it are the opposing Kray characters who, besides looking just alike, are totally outrageous in their social interactions. Ronald is gay. Reggie is straight. Ronnie wears glasses, Reggie doesn’t. Ronnie slurs though his London East End accent even more that Reggie does, although both are difficult to understand from one end of the movie to the other. I’m thinking I’ll watch Legend again when it’s available on DVD should the disc come with optional English subtitles for people who seldom hear their own tongue spoken in accents other than those common to the United States. I would only have less understood what Hardy was saying — in either part — if he’d spoken in German.
Another thing Legend has working for it is the oblique humor produced by either twin’s idiosyncrasies. The best of those is Ronnie’s totally open attitude toward a visiting Italian-American mobster known as Angelo Bruno. (Chaz Palmenteri plays him to the nines.) Ronald freely and up front admits to Angelo that the bespectacled Kray is homosexual. Angelo thinks it’s a joke, but then becomes totally undone that Ronald is telling it true by simply saying, “I like boys.” (Laughs aplenty, people.)
What doesn’t work for Brian Helgelund’s movie is trying to sustain a two-hour plus picture with two leading characters no one can muster up any kind of sympathy. Drawing the ironies that are simply daily occurrences in the Kray brothers lives loses it luster by at least the halfway point of the film.
I hastily add: I’m a fan of Helgelund’s. He had a hand in two of my favorite crime movies: The Usual Suspects and Mystic River. The narratives of both are compelling even though each is all about villains on the prowl and fighting among themselves. The stories told in those Helgelund’s movies caused me not to be so much aware I felt little sympathy for their bad guy characters.
Reggie’s ongoing and long suffering love relationship with Francis Shea (Emily Browning) is sadness on celluloid — if celluloid is the right word today. Browning keep reminding me of a svelte Lulu, the Scottish singer who became popular in the Sixties and seen in To Sir With Love.
Pop music of that day shadows the narrative, giving a stronger foundation for the times of the Krays — unfortunately, all of it prior the John, Paul, George and Ringo invasion upon the world’s eardrum.
The leading actor is the reason to see Legend. And maybe how contemporary cinematography and other newfangled optics can trick you into believing that Tom Hardy can be standing right next to himself in two places at the same time.