Legend full movie review - Yes, there is a Legend here - his name is Tom Hardy pt 1
Brian Helgeland titled this film "Legend" based on the sheer wealth of myths and fables surrounding the infamous East End gangster twins.
That treasure trove enables even more artistic license than film makers are typically allowed, but the result here is a shallow mining that bypasses the documented, the verifiable, the "true". Unfortunately, many of the director's Kray scenarios, although beautifully photographed by Dick Pope, are pale vignettes compared to the fantastical reality of the brothers. An example is the early scene depicting Ron Kray's release from Long Grove psychiatric hospital as a strong-arming of a shrink caper, when Ron's "escape" was really so much more exciting: he blithely switched clothes and places with his brother Reggie and walked away. (Reggie could not be held as he showed his drivers license as identity). Seeing that played out, an audience would have a much better sense of the twins' near telepathic abilities, and the deviousness of their ingenuity. Again and again in Legend, Helgeland romances myths when truths explain so much better who the brothers were, and how they rolled. "Knowing what happened" should always be open to interpretation, but not at the expense of less interesting story telling. This scripting failure is a particular pity when a writer of Brain Helgeland's quality is involved : with one mocking line by a surveilling cop in the opening scene, one can understand just why the inhabitants of Bethnal Green would prefer to "kiss a gangster than talk to a cop".
Yet Legend has its delights: gorgeous cinematography highlighting 60's London settings from East End streets bustling with stalls and costumed to perfection shoppers, to mahogany barred, velvet appointed night clubs to dank, forbidding prison halls ? all of which looks to the contemporary Yank as likely authentic ? Pope can evoke a sense of nostalgia for what was never even experienced. Although some of the 60's pop musical selections are laughably literal (Chapel of Love for the wedding is corny enough; Make the World Go Away playing while Frances suicides with pills is beyond even Ronnie Kray sadism/silliness), Carter Burwell's lovely score tempers critical scenes. The cast could have been better used in cases, particularly Taron Egerton as Ronnie's amiable yes/rent boy triggerman, but Chaz Palminteri as the US Mafia don, David Thewlis as frustrated "fixer" Leslie Payne, Christopher Eccleston as legendary 'flash bastard' cop Nipper Read, and especially Peaky Blinders' Paul Anderson as Reggie's right-hand man Albert Donoghue all convey a strong degree of authenticity to any student of the Krays and their milieu. Emily Browning as Reggie Kray's love interest is conversely both at center stage and so objectified by Reggie that the fullness of her personality can't help but be obscured by her exposition and "otherness". But she is amazingly effective as the doomed girl next door, seduced by danger ? when she meets Reggie, her youthful flirtation is a marvel of innocence and sexual awakening. She slips down a front door stoop to meet Reggie's gaze from a diminutive height, from which she (barefooted and shy-brazen) twinkles up at him to best advantage. Her devolution is all the more painful to behold considering her initial saucy confidence.
Of course it's Tom Hardy in his dual role who is the saving grace of Legend. From first sight of Reggie (he of the perpetual furrowed brow and pouty lips) swaggering down an East End street, mocking Old Bill and announcing his guvnership of the 'hood, we see a larger than life character as confident with his fists as with his reputation, a bespoke suited jungle animal, eyes cunning and wary. There are scenes (the opening street strut filmed from behind, a later one flanked by two prison guards, a frontal approach to his brother in an impending fight, a final walk by river lights after killing McVitie) where everything we need to know about Reggie is in that fascinating walk. Leading with massive shoulders, a boxer's arrogant swagger, this is the King of Creation for as far as he can nail it, born to command. To Ronnie, "the mad twin" Tom brings a surprising innocence. Ron knows he is both "fragile" and damaged, but his only real fear is losing primacy in his brother's life. The signs of deep psychosis are always there in the direct glare behind thick horn-rimmed glasses, the ramrod posture, the words spit out as though forcibly expelled from some simmering mass of chaos.
It is true, as has been maintained in review after review, that you quickly forget this is one actor playing two characters ? that delightful amnesia is aided by Helgeland limiting the scenes in which both twins are in the same frame, but it is really down to Tom Hardy how carefully, but naturally, the personality foundation of the differences between the two is constructed. The use of minor prosthetics and suit style/padding help this illusion, but you feel Tom could have easily pulled off the distinction had the twins been exact doubles ? and again, much of that distinction comes from Hardy's famous command of his gait, posture, stance. This is an actor who can face off against a man half a head taller and present the picture of intimidation, toe to toe, with the angle from which he cocks his head and the direction he aims his gaze. Does any other actor working today have such a control of the "real estate"? When he lackadaisically leans the right side of his body and arm against a bar in total repose, but strikes out a lightening left hook that decks his adversary with shocking force, you are stunned with the physicality. But you buy it. (Yes, if you enjoy Tom Hardy in fighting scenes, with himself as well as others, this is a must see film).
to be continued