TIFF 2015: Tom Hardy as Both Kray Bros in Brian Helgeland's 'Legend'
by Marco Cerritos
September 15, 2015
The glamour of 1960's London underworld is captured with varying degrees of success in Brian Helgeland's new film Legend, the story of notorious East end gangsters Ron and Reggie Kray. The fact that both twins are played via CGI by versatile actor Tom Hardy should sweeten the film's appeal were if not for the uneven craftsmanship behind the camera. Celebrated screenwriter Brian Helgeland (of L.A. Confidential, director of 42 and A Knight's Tale) wrote and directed Legend and although many of the tales told in the film have been covered before, his screenplay manages to make them fresh again. The 1990 film The Krays scratched the surface on the volatile brothers' past but Legend digs much deeper.
Reggie Kray (Hardy) is the public face of the duo, an outgoing and extremely charming criminal. His devilish personality is only matched by the loyalty to his psychopathic brother Ron (Hardy). That twin is quiet, introverted and deeply disturbed. He seems to destroy everything he touches and that suits him just fine. These cockney crime lords are two sides of a very damaged coin and Hardy's dual performance expertly gives each brother his own distinct touch.
There are scenes in Legend where you completely forget that Hardy is playing both roles, in essence acting against himself. These scenes are a thing of beauty and elevate the film to scattered heights that unfortunately never come together. Another misstep in Helgeland's script is to have Reggie's wife Frances (played by Emily Browning) narrate the entire movie. Voiceover in a film can be a powerful tool when used correctly but here it's distracting and even worse, carried out by the wrong character entirely. I understand the need to tell the Krays' story from an outsider's perspective but as woven into the final film, it's unnecessary and weighs the film down.
Helgeland is an obvious fan of American crime movies and his love for the genre adds charisma to the movie when it needs it most. There are definite Martin Scorsese influences throughout Legend with one date scene in particular as an obvious reference to his masterpiece Goodfellas. The screenplay also jumps through time trying to cover as many of the Krays' criminal highlights as possible. Everything from their corrupt schemes to their connection to the American mafia is touched upon, some with more weight than others.
It's unfortunate that Legend isn't more balanced than it is. Tom Hardy gives one of the best performances of his career as the Kray Brothers but is sadly let down by a distracting voiceover and a lagging script. It says a lot about his performance that despite these handicaps, Legend still manages to rise above its limp title and entertain. Helgeland is getting stronger and stronger behind the camera with each new outing so here's hoping the next one is the one that finally breaks through.
Marco's TIFF 2015 Rating: B-
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