To the 60’s we head to review Legend – a biopic about the later years of London based gangsters the Krays.
The film is both written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who has previously had significant success as a screenwriters with previous work that includes the script for both LA Confidential and Mystic River. In 2013 he wrote and directed the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, and here again both writes and directs.
The film features Ton Hardy in both lead roles, starring as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray, through some clever camera tricks and a clear effort by the actor to create very distinct characters for the 2 infamous gangland rulers.
The story actually follows a young lady, Frances Shea (played by Emily Browning), who we see meeting, and falling for Reggie Kray. It’s through Shea that we watch Reggie continuing his exploits and descent into further criminal exploits and witness the consequences of his lifestyle on those around him.
Hardy is a fantastic actor and there’s no disputing the skills he uses here in his performance. Its a remarkable delivery of two characters interacting throughout and you quickly forget that actually its just one actor. However Browning also stands out in this film giving a true sense of human frailty bewitched by the celebrity and charm of Reggie Kray.
For me though, something doesnt quite work in the film. It gives us a Ronnie Kray that seems more exaggerated (perhaps to provide contrast to Reggie) in almost an idiot thug riddled with schizophrenia and yet providing light relief at times with moments of comedy. Maybe that’s what he was really like but it does seem slightly more comic book than the darker reality of what the 1990 Kemp brother performances were about.
With the screenwriting of Helgeland and two remarkable performances in one film by Hardy, its hard to not think that it delivers something where the whole is less than the sum of the parts, but its still worth a watch.