Tom Hardy is charming and terrifying as the Kray twins
Thanks to Studiocanal we had the chance to see Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy in ‘Legend’ prior to its Australian cinematic release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself.
‘Legend‘ is the latest retelling of the story of notorious twin brothers and 1960s London gangsters, Reggie and Ronald Kray (Tom Hardy in both roles). Written and directed by Brian Helgeland (director of ‘A Knight’s Tale’ and ‘Payback’) the story is retold through Reggie’s partner Frances Shea (Emily Browning).
Emily Browning is very sympathetic as the sweet and fragile Frances. Her fragility doesn’t just apply to her mental state but also physically; Hardy at just 1.75 metres towers over her, making her look like a Wii Fit avatar with half her height coming from her head and hair. As sweet and tortured as ‘Frannie’ is, her character does become a little irritating; this is because the character isn’t given much background or depth, despite the mental torture she must have received being Reggie’s wife. Her narration doesn’t seem quite right as she is peripheral to many of the scenes depicted in the story. As good as Browning is in the role, just like in the film poster she fades into the background behind the two Toms.
Although it initially seems like stunt casting, having Tom Hardy play the two ‘bruvers’ absolutely works and this will be the main reason people will go see the film. He plays the handsome and stylish Reggie with so much charm that when he is courting and proposing to Frances you actually forget he is a violent gangster. Ronald is a stick of dynamite with the fuse consistently close to exploding, dressed with Clark Kent-glasses and played with a drooping mouth to avoid any confusion between the two. It’s hard not think of Hardy’s other menacing characters when watching his Ronald; Bronson due to his explosive temperament and Bane due to the silly voice – which is just as hard to understand as it was in ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘. What Hardy does so well is blur the line between the twins, reminding us Reggie can be incredibly cruel while Ronnie can be quite insightful.
Ronnie in his biography said “They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world… and me and my brother ruled London”. This is the feel Helgeland has gone for with his direction. He has made sixties London look incredibly stylish, each scene a burst with bright colours, fantastic vintage cars and a real Rat Pack-Vegas feel. Also a seasoned writer, the story is a long way off Helgeland’s Oscar nominated ‘Mystic River‘ and award winning ‘L.A. Confidential’ but the journey is fun despite the very shallow storyline. ‘Legend’ glorifies the brotherhood of violence to the point you almost think crime does pay, for a while anyway. Though the law eventually catches up on them, Christopher Eccleston as Scotland Yard detective Nipper Read is very underused in the film.
Oddly, ‘Legend’ is quite amusing at times; albeit the humour is often based on the sheer absurdity of the scene, like Ronnie trying to play a trumpet or Tom Hardy fighting with himself. Just as in ‘A Knight’s Tale’ there are some great musical interludes. There are two particular nightclub scenes where pop singer Duffy, wearing an awful Oliver Twist-wig, belts out some classic sixty sounds. These scenes alone will make you wish you were part of the opulent, swinging sixties of London.
While the legend of the Krays may be a tried formula (with the many books, documentaries and even the 1990-film starring Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers still among popular culture); this version like ‘The Great Gatsby‘ from 2013 offers nothing new but looks fantastic doing it. It is unexpectedly enjoyable.
Legend is released nationally on 15 October.