Tom Hardy plays both Kray twins in Legend, the biopic of the ’60s East End gangsters.
KIM TAYLOR-FOSTER reviews
Running time 2hr 11mins
WHAT’S better than Tom Hardy on the big screen? Two Tom Hardys on the big screen.
Playing the dual role of the Kray twins, the British actor with a reputation for taking on iconic roles attempts to portray the men behind the mythology in Brian Helgeland’s new depiction of the lives of the gangster brothers who ruled the East End in 1960s London. Legend, however, is far from legendary itself. It seems to want, more than anything else, to highlight the personalities and real lives and feelings of the sociopathic Reggie and his brother Ronnie, a homosexual who suffered with mental health problems. But, as with so many other biopics, it fails to get under the skin of its subjects.
Told from the point of view of Reggie’s tragic wife Frances (Emily Browning), the story starts at the beginning of their relationship – from their very first meeting – through to its sad demise and Reggie’s subsequent murder of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie, which led to his lifelong imprisonment.
The film neither delves deeply enough into their activities as criminals, the love story, nor the relationship between the brothers, leaving you unclear about the film’s purpose – and none the wiser about the brothers as people, or about the extent of their criminality. Sure, they’re portrayed as violent and sure, they’re portrayed as having a love-hate relationship – and sure, there’s a love story sketched out – but there’s no real explanation or depth to any of it.
Frances stresses throughout that she loves Reggie: she thinks he’s sweet, she says. But there’s nothing in the film to show why she fell in love; there’s no fully-rounded human being presented, and so we never really understand. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for her because of this and this is problematic for the film.
Tom Hardy, meanwhile, brings Tom Hardy to both roles. He’s big, brash and theatrical – there’s ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky, Bane and Bronson mashed up in here. What results is a blackly-humorous portrayal of comic-book style caricatures, presumably meant to jar with the brothers’ violent sides but instead sitting awkwardly, meddling with the film’s tone, to its detriment. The film’s highlight is Taron Egerton as Ronnie’s loyal boyfriend and right-hand man Teddy Smith. Having made an impact in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, he’s proving himself to be a real talent. With other elements to recommend it – namely the portrayal of the twins’ slightly bizarre relationship with an overprotective mother who babies them and turns a blind-eye to their misdemeanours, and the interesting and unsettling dynamic between Jack McVitie (Sam Spruell) and Reggie – Legend isn’t a complete mishit. It’s just frustrating because by refining its focus it could have been so much better.