Tom Hardy is in such high demand as an actor these days that Director Brian Helgeland has utilized him twice in his new movie, Legend, which tells the story of London’s most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ronnie Kray (Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy, respectively). Hardy now joins a short list of esteemed actors who have portrayed identical twins on film, including such respected actors as Lindsey Lohan and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The Kray’s ruled the East-end of London during the swinging sixties, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous at their night clubs which had been purchased from the proceeds of armed robberies, protection rackets, and extortion. But for anyone walking into Legend thinking they will be getting a violent drama about gangsters set in London’s seedy underground will be left feeling short changed by what is essentially a tragic love story.
The film is narrated by Reggie’s first wife, Frances (Emily Browning), and covers their meeting and courtship, through to marriage and eventual sad ending. Torn between going on the straight and narrow for the love of his wife, or living the exhilarating life of a gangster with his brother, Reggie’s promises of a respectable life never last more than a few days before he’s back to laundering money or intimidating victims of the gang’s crimes.
Hardy is fantastic in his dual roles, giving both brothers their own unique identity, not solely relying on Ronnie’s glasses to help tell the two apart. After playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy continues the trend of playing characters that are difficult to understand. The thick cockney accents alone are worth having subtitles on screen, but add in a mouthful of false teeth and cotton wool as part of his transformation into Ronnie Kray, and at times I thought I was listening to Bane taunting Batman.
Emily Browning has certainly grown up since playing the young Violet Baudelaire in Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, and does her best with a part that seems under developed. The movie would also be a lot better without using her as the narrator, the voiceovers being unnecessary and annoying.
Despite Reggie and France’s relationship being at the center of the film, thankfully it does manage to fit in a few scenes of brutal violence to remind us that it is a gangster film after all.
Visually, there’s nothing particularly impressive about the shots in the film, however, props should be giving for seamlessly integrating the two Hardy’s together, a job made a thousand times harder in scenes where the two are brawling with each other.
It’s a shame that more time wasn’t spent on telling the story of how the Kray’s came to rule the East-end, or even of their time spent in prison. Instead, by cutting back and forth between the Reggie and France’s relationship and the Kray’s doggy dealings, neither is developed satisfactory and the film ends up dragging for its two hour plus running time.
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