Friday, November 27

REVIEW: Legend

Directed by Brian Helgeland
2015 Crime Biography
2 hours 11 minutes
From Universal

Tom Hardy
Emily Browning
Christopher Eccleston
David Thewlis
Colin Morgan
Chazz Palminteri
Kevin McNally
Tara Fitzgerald
Paul Bettany

Hunky, magnetic Tom Hardy and his gripping portrayal of both of London's notorious 1950s/60s identical twin gangster brothers, the Krays, is about the only reason to see this film and even then, one had really better be into Hardy. 

Reggie and Ronnie Kray were a couple of vicious thugs who ruled their crime gang, called The Firm, in London's East End.  They were West End nightclub owners who courted celebrity while they murdered, committed robberies and arson and were in the protection rackets.

The film is clumsily narrated by Frances Kray, Reggie's wife, who originally adored him but at the end could hardly stand the sight of him.  Their relationship is a large focus of the film.  Reggie, always ready to punch someone's lights out, was crafty, lethal and a bit of a stud.  Bespectacled Ronnie, openly gay, (no sex scenes, so those of you who are wondering, be at peace) was probably even more lethal and clearly a nut case.  Their criminal exploits, of course, are at the heart of the film... specifically what they are is not so important here as there was nothing particularly exceptional.

If the mind-numbing use of four-letter words and in-your-face violence is your thing, then quickly head to your local theater.  But if not... beware.  I was not as put off by either as much as I was the clunky story, awkward transitions and the fact that we don't really learn much about the Krays beyond their crimes.  It veered between episodic themes and odd black comedy.  The screenplay just sort of chugged along and at the end, it just sort of sat there.

Helgeland wrote the screenplay in addition to directing.  Maybe it was all just a bit too much for him.  The writer of such great films as L.A. Confidential and Mystic River was certainly no stranger to the crime milieu so what happened here?  Even as a director I suspect it got away from him at times. 

The screenplay let Hardy down but he rose above it and gave a magnificent rendering of the quite different brothers.  Apart from the different looks (for identical twins, no less), he pulled off different postering, vocal inflections and the like.  Here is an actor who at the drop of a hat can go from brutality to tender, from moody to congenial.  He can say more with his face than most actors can with a thousand words.  And in this case, it's just as well because I could barely understand a word he said (although the 4-letter ones were clear).  His Reggie was a tad more understandable than Ronnie but regardless, that cockney English is a killer.  So for me, the film became more of a visual experience.

I am wondering if Hardy will make it into the Oscar nominations (the BAFTAs are a certainty) or will the less-than-stellar film find him among the missing?

Next posting:
Their 4 films together

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