The latest offering from writer/director Brian Helgeland, Legend is a crime thriller set in 1960s London starring Tom Hardy as both of the infamous gangster twins, Reggie and Ronald Kray. Based on a true story, it documents the great lengths and feats that the Krays went to, in a bid to claim the London underworld as their own.
The film opens with Reggie Kray seen as the unassuming everyman – but under this docile exterior lies an ambitious bulldog with an inherent need to take what he wants. Other twin Ronald Kray has mental illnesses which leave him unpredictable, impatient and very illogical. The twins go about their siege of terror with Detective Superintendent ‘Nipper’ Read (Christopher Ecclestone) and enemy gangster Eddie Richardson (Paul Bettany) nipping on their coat tails, with funny and sometimes ridiculous results.
The role of Reggie’s long-suffering wife Frances is excellently played by Emily Browning, not the first character to be taken in by his handsome and glamorous side. Armed with a handful of loyal cronies, The Krays go about their infiltration of London with almost immediate success, acquiring clubs and nightclubs with little to no trouble. Their good cop/bad cop routine works faultlessly with Reggie Kray playing the charismatic charmer while Ronald Kray remains the muscle behind the operation. As all the extortion and clandestine deals catch up with their seemingly perfect hedonistic lifestyle, it’s not long before Ronald and Frances – who also has mental health issues – begin to unravel, slowly crumbling the walls of the Kray empire.
Tom Hardy does an almost stellar job as the twins. Playing the polished ‘Del Boy’ character of Reggie, his performance is seamless, but he struggles a little as the openly homosexual Ronald. His mental illnesses cause Ronald to act strangely and at certain points Tom Hardy is clearly overacting. Emily Browning’s performance as vulnerable outsider Frances is brilliant and she steals the limelight in every appearance she makes.
A soundtrack comprising of mostly Motown classics keeps the atmosphere of the film lively and the set costumes leave you with a gnawing craving for a taste of the swinging sixties. Forgotten Welsh starlet Duffy makes a surprise appearance in the film, performing a few songs. This film can only be described as a ‘feel-good Gangster film’, but perhaps under the instruction of Danny Boyle or Shane Meadows, the gangster grit would feel more believable and gory.