Let’s not get our garters into a twist by thinking the above title has any essence of support for the criminality of the Kray family in Brian Helgeland‘s latest movie ‘Legend’, it doesn’t. What it does refer to is the strange beast of a movie with multiple moments of excellence (mainly Tom Hardy), but mixed with far lesser fair. Like the fleeting mood swings of one of the Kray brother’s Ronnie (who was later certified insane) it jumps from brutal violence to comedy, but through a strange West End stage like filter. At certain moments I wouldn’t have all been surprised if the cast all burst into song, maybe they should have.
Notorious throughout the land for decades, the subject of the Krays has been covered so many times in various mediums it seems like a strange subject to focus on. What possible new information or angle can it be done from, and indeed why at all. But it’s in that premise alone that the title itself gives a clue. Like the attention grabbing headlines of the red top rags screaming out fear and lies every day, in some essence the Krays were the parents of such media hype of fear, control and manipulation of image, to the extent that they seemingly ended up believing their own tales. Shout it long enough and it becomes true. They ran nightclubs where they socialised with the entertainment stars of the day, and by association they were stars themselves. The difference being the actors, singers were playing roles, while willing to dance with the devils in the pale blood stained moon light.
To differentiate itself from previous ventures Helgeland has entered the illicit milieu via the apparent innocence of Frances Shea (Emily Browning) who was briefly married to Reggie Kray before her death. Her presence attempts to bring a bit of humanity to a world of violence, though indeed she is a gentle yet emotively broken winged individual in her own right.
What does work, and is the real reason to see this film is Tom Hardy’s performance. Playing the twins is a shrewd move when having Tom’s clearly blooming abilities in his roles steering the ship. Both brothers are fully rounded separate individuals (even more individuals considering Ronnie’s range by necessity), with different movements, speech patterns and core values. Of course everyone will spend some time trying to figure out how certain scenes were done, but hopefully not too long.
Criminally under used (pun intended) is Christopher Eccleston as Leonard “Nipper” Read the Detective Superintendent who has the task of taking the Krays down. Eccleston in my mind is one of the finest actors around (as is potentially Hardy, who just needs a few more roles) and his presence on screen could have been alot more. Just hearing his comments at a recent press junket for the movie about him harnessing the memories of his intense Grandad to enhance Nipper’s character added huge gravitas which must have been unfortunately edited out. Hopefully Tom and Christopher will work together on future projects to further each others abilities.
So like the protagonists themselves, this is a flawed piece of work. It has some great set pieces, which add to the stage feel of the film, but personally I wasn’t a fan of the look of the film which was very graphic novelesque (and I love graphic novels). But ultimately this is Hardy’s movie, and though not perfect, it’s clear his Legend is being created in each frame.
Legend is out now.