Directed by Brian Helgeland.
Starring Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston, Paul Bettany and Chazz Palminteri.
The film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.
With more biopics, documentaries and books that you can imagine, here comes Legend, another take on the Kray twins infamous story.
This time, director and writer Brian Helgeland decided to do something different and tell the story from Reggie’s tragic wife Frances’ (Browning) perspective. From the initial meet-cute through to the horrific violence that ensued, it’s a take on the story that we haven’t seen before.
On the whole Legend is a phenomenally entertaining and gripping film to watch. The 131 minute running time flies by with only a few errors along the way. The biggest issue is that this film does glamourise the Krays to a certain level. Reggie especially is seen as a life loving gangster and a cheeky chappie. Ronnie’s mental issues are highlighted throughout but there is a comedic aspect to his behaviour that you wouldn’t expect. Helgeland is careful not to gloss over the atrocious murders that were committed; a final scene with Jack McVitie (Sam Spruell) is gut wrenching in its violence. Whilst this film isn’t a love letter to the Krays, it does go easy on some of their day to day crimes.
Emily Browning as the lamentable Frances Shea is brilliant and disappointing all at the same time. Her performance is wonderful to behold and her cockney accent is spot on. The biggest problem is her narration of the film. At times it becomes too Meta and the constant glossing over of the Krays rise in the criminal underworld, leaves too much unanswered. Her character is also under developed. We know that she was attending Secretary School, that she’s lonely and popping pills, but there’s not much depth to her.
With the negatives over, it’s time to look at two of the best performances I’ve seen all year. Much of the draw of this film has been to see Tom Hardy play both Ron and Reg and he exceeds beyond all measure. As the suave gangster Reg, Hardy exudes his confidence and frustrations at his brother, whilst still having the charm that allowed the Krays to reach the top. As Ron, Hardy’s face is contorted, speech slurred, frame bent over and he lumbers around with no grace, with manic fighting episodes akin to scenes from Bronson. The two performances are beautifully captured by Helgeland with the two characters interacting frequently so that we really feel that there are two separate people on the screen. Hardy presents the twin relationship with a lot of heart leading to a truly sad epiphany moment when Reg says to Ron “I killed him because I can’t kill you”.
Helgeland recreates 1960s London so that we see the glitz and glamour that surrounded the Krays. He also has a knack for filming the violent scenes with a pinch of humour that make you feel like it’s a guilty pleasure. There is humour abound and the supporting cast do well to balance the heavy and light aspects. Taron Egerton shines throughout whilst Christopher Ecclestone’s Nipper Read is nothing more than window dressing.
Whilst we’ve seen many films about the Kray’s, no film has ever felt so visceral and heart breaking as this one.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter