This may seem like it might be a bit late for review for a film that has finished its rotation on the big screen and is a month from being released on DVD. However I feel like I have to give my thoughts on 2015’s Legend because it is really not as good as everyone has said it is.
Directed by Brian Helgeland and staring Tom Hardy in a duel role as the films leads, Legend is a historical biopic following the rise and the fall of Ronnie and Reggie Kray (Hardy), the infamous gangster twins who ruled London in the 1960’s. It also deals with Reggie’s relationship with his wife Frances Shea (Emily Browning), the relationship between the Kray twins themselves and the police investigation into the Krays. Now if that sounded like a lot for a film to cover in 2 hours and 10 minutes, don’t worry, you’re absolutely right. The film is a bloated mess that is so unsure of it story and so bland in its production that you feel every second of the film’s packed run time tick by.
Brian Helgeland also takes a screenwriting credit if you can really call the collection of failed jokes, overcooked philosophy and cliché a screenplay. He has proved that he has written better, he wrote L.A. Confidential (1997) and Mystic River for Clint Eastwood in 2003. With his pedigree in the crime genre you would expect a somewhat compelling story about two of the most famous British gangsters in history. However you find yourself watching something trying to emulate Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) as well as any recent British gangster film you can think of. The main problem with the story is it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a doomed love story, a doomed family drama, a doomed criminal story or a profound examination of the human condition. It tries to be everything and thus does nothing but re-treads well-worn ground.
The whole film is narrated by Browning, which just adds to the drudgery as she delivers her lines as monotonously as someone going through their
holiday photos. As the film progresses it becomes more and more confusing as to why she is even the narrator in the first place. It may have
made more sense to have Christopher Eccleston as the gruff police Detective Superintendent Lenard “Nipper” Read or one of the Krays themselves, not some sappy girl trying to play the hardened gangsters mol. Even when you see her on screen, she doesn’t really contribute anything to the story other than humanising Reggie somewhat and showing that marrying a gangster is dangerous and destructive, something that we already know.
While it is easy to single Browning out as the weak point in the cast, she isn’t the only one phoning in her performance in the film. The film does indeed have a fantastic cast Hardy, Eccleston, Paul Bettany (in a small role as a rival gang leader) and David Thewlis (as the Krays Business Manager). However these actors are only given one emotion to play with, Eccles
ton is angry as is Bettany and Thewlis is cautious and frustrated. Again this may have been the fault of the screenplay which as I have said before was overbaked and overstuffed. There are so many characters that we cannot see them develop beyond what they need to do to service the story.
You may now be wondering when I am going to get to talk about Tom Hardy. I have been putting it off, the reason why I have been putting it off
is because in my mind Tom Hardy sinks the film. Now before you track me down and set me on fire for defaming the name of his almighty Hardyness I would like to explain my reasoning. The film was marketed around and sold on Hardy’s duel role as both Ronnie and Reggie Kray and because of this the film didn’t focus on its numerous other problems. To be perfectly honest his performance isn’t even that good. Reggie Kray is your standard conflicted gangster with a heart of gold, while Ronnie is slightly more memorable because they use his mental instability as a punch line, something that I cannot tolerate. There is a physical difference between the two definitely, and you can tell them apart; if nothing else Tom Hardy is a fantastic physical actor. But the development of the characters doesn’t go beyond your standard gangster troupes. The delivery of the lines is either grumbled in that gruff way actors so love to use when they are trying to be emotional or screaming because… well to make sure that the audience hasn’t fallen asleep. Tom Hardy can do so much better and indeed has; Bronson (2008) is the perfect example as it deals with a similar subject matter, but with so much more style and finesse that it sticks in people’s minds as Hardy’s best performance to date. A final point, if you are going to sell a film on the duel performance of a single actor, whose
characters appear on screen at the same time, then make it look convincing. You can clearly see composite lines around Tom Hardy, whose face may have been added to a body double later, or just around his body
when Ronnie and Reggie stand close together. This is not Hardy’s fault but it just goes to emphasis the lackluster production.
I can only really comment on the performances and the screenplay because stylistically the film is serviceable. You notice neither, this was clearly supposed to be a character piece, but the characters never showed up. I have no idea why the film has been received so well, it is perhaps the worst thing a film can be: it was dull but to make matters worse it kept reminding me of better films that I could be watching.