Legend, written and directed by Brian Helgeland is a gleefully callous film that jumps so sporadically from one tone to another, that soon the films loses its footing and its own sense, and in the end becomes a difficult to keep up with experience that certainly begins to over stay its welcome.
You follow the exploits of the Kray twins, Reginald Kray, played by Tom Hardy and Ronald Kray, also played by Tom Hardy (isn’t that handy). The two become the most infamous gangsters of 1960’s London and we watch this rise to an unmatched criminal empire. You’ll not only see the nasty side of their uniquely lived lives, but also the moments that grounded them as some truly messed up individuals.
With most films we’re usually treated to a scene stealing performance by Tom Hardy, this time though it’s Hardy stealing/competing with himself in scenes. Playing the somewhat saner of the two Kray brothers at certain points and them also playing the more obviously unhinged of the two brothers in the same scene. It would be foolish to say that Hardy isn’t exceptional in how he so convincingly plays two very different people. It is an unrivalled achievement what he ends up doing in Legend. Where the problem stems in the film though, is that the performances are so very different, it ends up causing a noticeable tonal rift within the film.
Hardy’s performance of Reginald Kray is the heart and soul of the film. We see his troubled relationship with his wife Frances, played by Emily Browning, both of which have great on screen chemistry, and certainly pull you into their self-destructing relationship, its Hardy’s performance as this Kray brother that is the highlight of the film for me, with that cool guy swagger that becomes an enraged fist throwing savant. Hardy owns every scene with this character and is a joy to watch, its Hardy’s performance as Ronald Kray where things get messy.
Tom Hardy transforms completely for his portrayal of Ronald Kray, from his stance, to his odd sounding voice, this is a person who may look like his twin, but is certainly someone who hasn’t allowed that fact of life determine how he is going to be. The problem with this side of the Kray coin is that it’s so different from what Hardy does with the other brother that it almost feels like a character for another film. The majority of his scenes come off more comical than frightening. Everything Hardy did to distinguish the two men, ended up creating two very opposite characters and this in turn causes the film to suffer.
What you end up getting with Legend is two films in one. Things don’t match up, scenes don’t flow into one another correctly, the overall tone falls apart and your left with a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Legend jumps from being a serious gangster film where rivals are being pummelled with hammers to an off the wall comedy that leaves you unsure on if you’re supposed to be laughing or not. It’s this back and forth that makes the film a confusing watch and by the end of it I was so fatigued by the experience I just wanted it to be over. A running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes didn’t help that want though, this is a film that goes on much longer than it needs too, and when it does finally end your left under whelmed by an unstimulating climax.
What also perhaps doesn’t help the film is the sporadic nature of the plot and how it is delivered. Legend has the same issue that ‘Straight Outta Compton’ (read the full review for that here) was plagued by, a plot that indiscriminately jumps through time (days, weeks, sometimes months) and leaves you completely lost as to where and when the characters are. The film tries to combat this by having Emily Browning’s character, Frances Kray, intrusively narrate how things stand, but it was more irritating than helpful. Side note, stop doing the whole narrator thing, it’s a lazy way of delivering an underdeveloped script/story in your film.
Another point I feel needs to be touched upon is the fact that the film not once but twice underutilises same great British talent. First Paul Bettany unexpectedly appeared in the film for a total of 5 minutes and then with that annoying narration preceding it he inexplicably disappears, never to be seen or heard from again. The second and perhaps more egregious is Christopher Eccleston who supposedly plays the never flinching copper in the film whose out to get the Kray twins. I say supposedly because the film sets up early on that this is the guy out to get them and then he just vanishes from the film for extended periods of time, only to pop back up with little to contribute. Both omissions felt odd and a little annoying. That being said, Legend is a film that’s filled with a great abundance of superb British actors and actresses.
At the end of it all I didn’t really enjoy my time with Legend. A film that had so much going for it sadly fell apart and most definitely lost its way.
I won’t be recommending Legend. Despite the bustling levels of talent in the film (Hardy in particular) this is a film that fails at what I tried to do. Less an in depth and compelling look at some fascinatingly messed up individuals and more an unintentional comedy that left me baffled and frustrated.
Did Legend work for you, did you in fact like the film? Sound off in the comments down below. Feel the want to keep up with my other posts? Follow me on Twitter,@GavinsTurtle. Now that it’s all said and done, enjoy the rest of your week.