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Legend (Tom Hardy) - DVD Review

Legend

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

TOM Hardy delivers not one but two outstanding performances in Legend, an engaging if flawed look at the reign of London’s notorious Kray twins.

The British actor is typically mesmerising as both Ronnie and Reggie, investing both with the type of multi-layered complexity we’ve come to expect from him.

It’s just a shame that writer-director Brian Helgeland’s film cannot always match the quality of it’s leading man, especially when scrutinised from a historical perspective. That is to say, liberties (or artistic licence) have been taken with elements of the story, whether in the depiction and motivation of certain key events or even the nature of the relationship between the brothers.

It’s almost academic that there is also a certain glory attached to them that feels slightly unsavoury given the violent extremes for which they were infamous. But that’s par for the course in a lot of gangster films.

Helgeland, for his part, would possibly argue that part of the film’s glorification stems from the point of view he has chosen to tell it from; that of Reggie’s ill-fated wife Frances (played by Emily Browning), whose own story arc involves being firstly seduced and only slowly appalled. But even this depiction has drawn criticism from at least one surviving member of Frances’ family.

And besides, it could also be argued that telling the tale from an outsider’s perspective denies viewers the opportunity to really explore what made the brothers tick and really get into their psychology.

It’s no coincidence that Legend works best when giving Hardy centre-stage and when the internal wrangling of the Krays themselves is the main focus.

Hence, Hardy plays Reggie as the more calculated poster boy; someone capable of extremes but equally someone who perhaps felt trapped by the life (and legend) he had created for himself. And while this type of portrayal is undoubtedly contentious, it makes for an interesting dynamic, not least for the way in which it contrasts with Hardy’s very different take on Ronnie, as a ferociously homosexual hulk of a man who would sooner use violence than diplomacy to perpetuate the legend surrounding them.

Admittedly, there are times when Hardy steps close to caricature in this portrayal but there’s no denying his Ronnie is a scary kind of beast to bare witness to. And the animosity this creates between the brothers’ differing business styles creates an uneasy tension between them that occasionally erupts into sibling violence. Again, this constitutes an interpretation that may well polarise opinion based on how much is known about the Krays going in, but it makes for fascinating viewing.

Further positives extend to the look of the film (which is suitably stylish), Helgeland’s handling of the set pieces (which are brutal) and supporting performances from the likes of Christopher Eccleston (as top cop Nipper Read), David Thewlis (as dubious accountant Leslie Payne) and Chazz Palminteri (as Angelo Bruno, a representative of Meyer Lansky).

But in some ways, the positives only make the negatives surrounding Legend all the more disappointing. Given the enormous talent involved (Helgeland did adapt the screenplay for LA Confidential after all!), Legend still feels like something of a missed opportunity. It’s only ever good when it could have been great.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 131mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: Monday, January 25, 2016