Sep 13, 2015 | Posted by in Movies

Brian Helgeland’s Legend tells the story of identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray (Tom Hardy) and their criminal empire in 1960s London.

This film tells the story from the perspective of Reggie’s wife Frances (Emily Browning) who arguably suffered more than anyone through the events depicted in the film. My biggest issue with this perspective is that it’s a very limited one. The voiceover narration constantly points out that she was aware of things that were happening but didn’t have the complete picture.

As such the audience only tends to hear about important events after they have already happened with normally means that a quick scene depicting the end result of it is the best we get. There are some betrayals of Frances as a narrator when things are depicted that she couldn’t possibly have known about such as conversations between Christopher Eccleston’s Nipper Read and his colleagues in the police. I understand that a certain degree of dramatic license is normally taken with a choice like this but things like that stuck out at me as being out of place. It would have been much better had the focus been on the Kray brothers with Frances serving as a supporting character within that. The interesting story was happening elsewhere while the film focused on something far less interesting.

Frances is depicted as being a really fragile woman initially who is wooed by the obvious charm of the charismatic Reggie and before she knows it she’s caught up in a situation that completely overwhelms her. As the film goes on she becomes a much stronger character but the sense of meekness about her is never really lost.

LegendDespite being the narrator her character is never especially well developed. Oddly enough we don’t spend an awful lot of time learning about her or her life. There are flashes of her disapproving mother and protective brother but they boil down to little more than fleeting glimpses. Same applies to her life married to Reggie. Emily Browning is really good at portraying the character as written but it doesn’t feel like she changes an awful lot over the course of the narrative.

The big problem with biopics that span a number of years is that the story has to continually jump past years of content so that the story being told tends to feel a little rushed. This definitely happens here with massive changes in the setup happening one minute to the next with little time for the audience to take stock of where in the story the film is now.

Tom Hardy in the dual role of Reggie and Ronnie Kray is absolutely fantastic. He creates a distinct character with each of the brothers that almost made me forget that it’s the same actor doing both roles. Reggie is portrayed as being smooth and passionate with a temper that sits just beneath the surface and doesn’t take much to come out. Ronnie is played as being somewhat brutish but with a good amount of humanity tempering that to keep him from becoming one dimensional. He is physically imposing and awkward to look at as well as be around as evidenced by his interactions with pretty much everyone on screen.

To have them on screen together there’s a generous amount of split screen going on but you’d never know with Tom Hardy’s performance. Some of the cuts in the scenes they share together are more than a little awkward but for the most part the film pulls this off with Hardy’s performance leading the charge to make it believable. A particularly noteworthy sequence has him fighting himself. The effect is increasingly comical and horrifying in equal measure. Hardy never stops being entertaining throughout and keeps the whole thing being somewhat watchable.

If it weren’t for Hardy’s chameleonic dual performance this film would suffer far more than it does. It feels a bit like a poor man’s version of Goodfellas without the finesse that Scorcese brings to the party. The period of the 60s is really driven home with awkwardly placed time specific music and random reminders of what year it is.

It’s not a long film but it feels oddly paced and the script lacks focus. The second half really drags and it feels like most of the scenes were written to let Hardy chew the scenery rather than actually further the story such as it is. By the time the film was over I didn’t have any more knowledge about what the Krays truly did than when I started.

Despite the many flaws I would say that this film is mostly worth watching for the always excellent dual performance from Tom Hardy. It has flashes of brilliance but really starts to drag in the second half.

  • 6/10
    Legend - 6/10


Something of a mixed bag as films go with really unfocussed storytelling and a narrator who doesn’t have enough of the picture for it to be compelling.

Using Reggie Kray’s wife Frances (Emily Browning) as the narrator was an odd choice as she is -by her own admission- lacking in many of the details that would make the story interesting. As such her narration is a limited view of things that have already occurred rather than seeing them play out properly. Emily Browning does a great job with this character but the focus was in the wrong place.

Due to this the film doesn’t manage to tell the story very well due to Frances’ absence from most of it. We get flashes of brilliance but little more than that. The film also fails to give Frances much in way of depth with only fleeting glimpses of her family and life in general.

The real star here is Tom Hardy with his dual performance as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. He does an incredible job with these two characters who are both completely distinct. It would be easy to believe that they hired twins for this he does so well. Some of the split screen choices are a bit laughable but on the whole the film pulls this off. The most notable sequence being a fight between the two brothers that manages to be equal parts horrifying and comical.

Hardy keeps the whole thing entertaining despite the dragging pace in the second half of the film and the whole unfocussed nature of the script. There’s a better story in there somewhere but the audience never quite gets to see it.

Despite the many flaws this film is worth a look if only for Hardy’s excellent dual performance. There are plenty of scenes designed to showcase his considerable talents and he never stops being entertaining.

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