Legend: Tom Hardy on Double-Duty as the Notorious Kray Twins in Wobbly Biopic
Christopher EcclestonEmily Browning...
Brian Helgeland’s Legend, a beautifully envisioned but unfocused biopic of the legendary Kray brothers – English gangsters who had a strong domination over the London crime scene back in the 60’s – seems to be a little lost with the handling of the subject(s) at hand. Based on John Pearson’s book titled, The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, Legend, though carries the aura of a gnagster flick, doesn’t quite hit the right notes as a biopic.
Set in London during the Swinging Sixties, twin brothers Reggie and Ronnie Kray (both played by Hardy) are already ruling most of the criminal underworld in London’s East End. Most of the dealings are controlled and handled by Reggie, who just happens to be the sane – and shrewder – of the two while Ronnie, the openly mad and shamelessly gay one, spends most of his time being a paranoid schizophrenic who wishes to shoot everyone in sight.
The business and the relationship between the two brothers soon takes a turn when Reggie meets, falls for and marries Frances Shea (a thinly-drawn Emily Browning); a beautiful eighteen year-old girl who soon begins testing Reggie’s standing within the criminal world, while the brothers continue to fend off Detective Nipper Read (Eccleston) who has been on their tail from the very beginning.
Penned by Helgeland himself and told entirely through the eyes of Frances – a choice which is the most questionable aspect of the film – the impact of the story and some of its characters who tend to come and go without any reason or question, seem to be lost in the midst of things and, ultimately, swallowed up in the scope of the film which is obviously, trying to say it all, instead of trying to say it well.
Luckily, Hardy is there to pick up the pieces. Equipped with a heavy Cockney accent – make sure you brush up on the slang before you venture into their world of crime – immaculate hairdos and lavish suits, this is possibly Hardy's most ambitious role to date and the Brit is magnificently enticing as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. Giving us the best of both worlds, Hardy is able to distinguish and separate both characters with their distinctively different personalities.
Playing out like a British – albeit inferior – version of Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Legend is a classic example of flash and style-over-substance and, like many biopics out there, it seems to have bitten off more than it can chew.