Starring BAFTA winner Tom Hardy as both of the infamous Kray Twins, this new Krays film is an impressively drawn biopic about the tortured relationship between two of Britain's most notorious criminals.
As the most famous gangsters in British history, The Krays consorted with celebrities and politicians as well as murderers and extortionists, and Legend reveals both the brutality and the glamour of their lives. Based on John Pearson’s The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, this British crime thriller chronicles the reign of terror which saw Ronnie and Reggie Kray come to dominate London’s East End.
Fresh from a string of critically acclaimed performances including in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy is a strong piece of casting. The Krays are exactly the sort of menacing and physically dominating characters in which an actor of his gravitas should excel, and the film's real strength is the core psychodrama between the Kray twins, with Reggie’s story portrayed as a losing battle against his brother Ronnie’s psychosis.
Legend film plot
The psychological crime drama follows the Kray Brothers' gang, known as The Firm, as they move to dominate London’s criminal underworld in the 1960s. We see them overcome their main rivals, the Richardsons, and later trade favours with the American Mafia, and the British political elite.
Legend: Film review
Tom Hardy’s solo double-act of playing both brothers is much more than a gimmick – the film’s most compelling and unusual scenes closely explore the fraught bond between the brothers. Writer/director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) has created a meditation on the danger of blood loyalty worthy of the Ancient Greek tragedians.
A gangster film of tragic proportions?
A comparison between Reggie Kray and the ill-fated Agamemnon in a key scene provides a subtle hint that the film's tragic resonance is deliberate. The gangster genre mainstays of looming threat and severe violence are arranged around this dark central plot, and the film’s tragic drive is strong enough to bring home the terrible reality of the Krays’ world, despite moments of inconsistency arising from Helgeland’s parallel interest in gangster-movie pastiche, known for his ability to handle deftly the kind of extreme violence which typified the Krays’ lives.
Some scenes will raise controversy. A better film would perhaps have sought more stylistic unity, and steered clear of knuckle-duster based comedy – but overall, violence does not come well out of Legend, and the harrowing scenes of torture and murder are more likely to produce nausea than pleasure: criticism is likely to hinge more on style than on any more troubling undercurrent of an uncertain moral code.
Legend film cast: Emily Browning, Colin Morgan, Christopher Eccleston
Though saddled with the least compelling main role, Emily Browning should be seriously lauded for carrying the narrative tenor of the film brilliantly, though to say why would be to give too much away. Her character arch suffers a little from the film’s moments of uncertainty, but also gives substance to its moments of brilliance.
Browning’s Frances Shea is, ultimately, another peripheral aspect of the core drama between the twins, but that evident fact about the Krays’ story is not overlooked by the film itself. Though her character is marginalised, her voice is not – Shea's stamp on the film is simply subtler than Hardy’s.
Viewers interested in seeing the young and ludicrously friendly BBC Merlin (Colin Morgan) appropriately playing the softest gangster ever, should get on board. Inspector Nipper Read is also one of Christopher Eccleston’s best pure character roles, and his fans will enjoy this demonstration of his range after his talents went largely wasted in Thor: The Dark World, his last cinematic outing.
If you do anything this October, then, watch The Krays film Legend: an impressive double-act performance from Hardy and a powerfully handled piece of crime drama, at the likes of which Helgeland excels.
|What||Legend review: film about the Kray Brothers, Tom Hardy|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
01 Oct 15 – 01 Jan 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to go to Legend: The Krays IMDB page|