On paper this Tom Hardy shaped vehicle, where he plays the notorious East End gangsters: the Kray twins, sounds like a winner and perhaps even Oscar bait come awards season. However, this 131 minute film feels like it would have benefited from a harsh cut down to an action packed 90 minute movie. The story ultimately feels like a run-of-the-mill gangster biopic that embraces all the clichés with no intention of establishing itself as an original film. At one point the camera follows Reggie Kray on one long tracking shot through his club as he greets every second person, surely a not so subtle homage to Goodfellas. While this could be interpreted as a cutesy nod to the 1990 Martin Scorsese classic it instead feels like the director has run out of ideas and has shoved this iconic shot in. Having said this, the film opens with a beautiful tracking shot of Reggie offering the policemen, who are trailing him in a car, a cup of tea and then allowing them to follow him, which indulges in brilliant cinematography and allows the humour of the script to shine through.
This review wouldn’t be complete without talking about Tom Hardy’s double performance as the infamous twins. As you can expect, Hardy gives it his all and is so convincing in his take on the Krays that you forget, even in the scenes where it’s just the two of them, that he is playing both characters. He fleshes out both the characters from their personality to their voice, giving Reggie a surprisingly soft Cockney accent while Ronnie sounds more like the love-child of Michael Caine and Alan Partridge. Minus Tom Hardy’s solid performance the rest of the cast neither excel nor disappoint even with the likes of Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis and Colin Morgan. When you wish you were watching them as The Doctor, Professor Lupin and Merlin respectively you know that the film has not left a very lasting impression.
One of the biggest problems with the film however is Reggie’s love interest, Frances Shea, who also provides the narration for the whole movie. Narration is often cited as the mark of a lazy writer but when included to add another layer to the film, whether providing a comic and inspirational narration (see Trainspotting) or a darker and more cynical voice-over (look no further than Fight Club and American Psycho) then it can pay off massively. Legend, however, uses the narration to state the obvious and would be exactly the same film if it was taken out. When actress Emily Browning has to sell such clunky lines in voiceover as “What did I want for my Christmas? My Reggie safe and above board” you realise that she, like the rest of the cast, are doing their best with what they have got. The narration from the viewpoint of Reggie’s wife was an interesting idea but it felt like an attempt to give her more to do rather than actually tell her side of the story which is strangely absent until the end.
Despite the problems with narration, and the pace of the story, Legend is an enjoyable movie. The film does have some brilliantly brutal and hilarious scenes, often at the same time, like a scene conducted by the Krays’ rival gang who have a man dangling upside down with two wires attached to his nipples while staging a mock court. If you walk into the cinema not expecting a massively complex retelling of the Krays’ rise and fall from power, but expecting to see a stand-out performance from Tom Hardy, you won’t be disappointed.
Worth a trip to the cinema?
+ Bloody fun
+ The Hardy Brothers
– Narrative problems
Tom Hardy’s compelling performance brings life to a fairly lacklustre script. Will it stand the test of time? Probably not.