TOM Hardy takes on the daunting but convincingly played dual role of both the Kray Twins in Legend, a biopic which fails to present itself as a wholly satisfying piece for the crime drama genre, in spite of being a showcase for the talents of its lead actor.
Documenting the vicious and ruthless methods that saw the Krays dominate the East End of London in the 1960s, Hardy plays the charming Reggie, while juxtaposing with the homosexual and more volatile Ronnie.
From Ronnie being released from a mental hospital thanks to the psychiatrist being threatened, to avoiding prison (in Reggie’s case, for a second time) despite the determination of DS Read (Christopher Eccleston), to siding with American mobsters, the film portrays the two ruling the roost with an iron fist.
While Ronnie involves politicians into his open lifestyle, Reggie sets himself up with wife Frances Shea (Emily Browning, the film’s narrator), combining the life of a husband with being half of a duo that would become placed amongst this country’s most infamous criminals.
But as the film progresses, in spite of where they stand, the viewpoint that crime will pay is one that is not far away.
When looking back at the film, one does not see Legend as boring as one goes in expecting to be told a crime story and gets that, even if its title might comes across as questionable in the eyes of some.
But in terms of being entertained, it does not do so anywhere in the way that would make someone think they have watched The Godfather.
While examining the lengths that both men went to in sustaining their reputations, the main problem with the film is that of its narrative. Whilst detailing what it was that made them who they were, it does so by presenting various scenarios that one is already familiar with, doing so in a manner that it is too reliant on convention and too straightforward for its own good.
The explanation of how the two managed to worm their ways into corruption, bribery and eventually murder is explained with a direction that doesn’t design unpredictability and often relies solely on Hardy to craft a modest sense of memorability. When Reggie goes to meet a certain character who has done wrong, all seems that it can be forgiven without problem, but it does not as in scenes detailed at least once, that character is obviously going to get attacked.
Hardy disappears into his role(s), with his take on Ronnie crafted with an openness that is both darkly humorous yet chilling to view. As he grapples with his verbal temper and penchant for violence, Reggie is played as one whose charisma and charm is all to see, yet nonetheless displays a taste for violence, but only if necessary.
In one particular scene, a meeting with rival gangsters depicts such personality differences with Ronnie drawing a gun only for Reggie to persuade that it won’t be necessary. A bar fight sequence also examines the contrast in presentations with Reggie’s casual manner contrasting with Reggie who arrives with what appear to be guns and demanding a shootout though the ‘guns’ turn out to be concealed leadpipes.
Hardy without doubt carries the film and reminds people that watching actors playing multiple roles as twins on screen at the same time can be an enjoyable experience, as seen with performers like Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers or Nicolas Cage in Adaptation. A brutal fight sequence between the twins all but makes for that point.
The supporting actors do a fair job of presenting what is screened with Browning, Paul Bettany (as a rival gangster) and David Thewlis (as the Krays’ long-suffering business manager) working with Hardy to put this down largely as a showcase for acting talent.
By all accounts, this film is not a disaster, but Legend serves as an overtly basic biopic, with the performances of its lead actor being by far the reason to watch it.