"Good, but it is hard to escape the feeling that it should have been great."
In London during the swinging ‘60s, The Kray twins represented the height of the criminal underworld. With connections to both the American Mafia and the English parliament, they were thought of as untouchable.
Legend tells the tale of these two gangster brothers. Reggie (Tom Hardy), the brains of the outfit with the charm and good looks to match, and Ron (still Tom Hardy) a psychotic sociopath with incredibly low self control. Through the eyes of Reggie’s girlfriend Frances (Emily Browning) we start to see inside this London criminal underground and the growingly fractious relationship between the siblings as they rise to power.
This film certainly puts a lot of effort into achieving average results. Its recreation of London during the ‘60s is a combination of beautiful hyper-kinetic colours and red brick brutalism. The visuals absolutely pop onscreen, giving the impression of a vibrant, living era. At times this can count against the film: combined with the intense violence and the rather larger than life characters, Legend can often feel more like a comic book than an accurate portrayal of events. This shouldn’t be a surprise - after all, the title makes it clear. Expectation of veracity aside, this is a celebration of the period and the characters that would become myth, and has more than a little of that in its presentation.
It’s an interesting take on things that does not entirely pay off. Although she is the audience’s entrance into the world of the Krays we are neither given much insight into her as a character, nor is the character given much insight into the world she has stepped into. The camera constantly moves away from her, following Hardy instead (and well it should; his performance is electric). Nor is she an insider enough to allow us a complete insight into the criminal underbelly. The result is the audience is often kept at a distance as we are given this secret history of London, and never feel we are getting the best view of it.
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In the part of the infamous twins, Hardy really excels. Reggie is charismatic and calculating, where Ron allows Hardy to lose himself in the violent insanity. At times bordering on caricature, it is Hardy’s empty lost stare and hunched posture that keepa the performance grounded.
Yet the story itself falls oddly flat. For all the violence and sordid history it is telling, Legend just doesn’t flow as it should.
All this sounds damning, and in truth it’s really is not meant to. Legend stands as a solid film, with some top notch acting, a vibrant feel for the era, and some sequences that are going to leave audiences gasping. Good, but it is hard to escape the feeling that it should have been great.
Originally published in X-Press Magazine