Playing a character who the audience struggles to approve of, let alone two, is a difficult challenge. So when it was announced that Tom Hardy would be playing both Kray twins, he had an almighty task on his hands.
Fortunately, Hardy’s performance, as well as director Brian Helgeland’s beautiful portrayal of London’s 1960’s East End makes Legend an enjoyable interpretation of the famous brothers.
The film follows the story of twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray, two of the most notorious gangsters in London in the swinging 60s, told through the narration of Frances Shea (Emily Browning), the wife of Reggie.
The story starts almost at the beginning of their downfall in the midst of their ruling of the East End. As their empire grew into the West End, so did their name, rubbing shoulders with some of the big names in society. As a result, rival gangs, in addition to the police, led by Detective Superintendent “Nipper” Read (Christopher Eccleston) were a constant threat to the Kray’s rule.
Ultimately, the relationship between the two brothers is what sparks their fall. Due to Ronnie’s mental condition, and Reggie’s unwillingness to abandon his brother, the latter struggles to keep his dealings stable whilst trying to almost look after his twin.
Reggie’s wife Frances, played by Emily Browning, is a key component to determining the relationship between the brothers. Her peripheral Snatch-like narration slightly backfires for director Helgeland as she is barely involved in the brothers’ criminal on goings, but the interpretation of this fragile character gives us a clear insight into the magnitude of the Krays’ status.
Hardy is inevitably excellent – twice over. Helgeland does an incredible job of convincing the audience that there isn’t just one man behind both characters, but Hardy’s portrayal of two different types of individuals, albeit brothers, is highly impressive.
Following a number of gangster movie trends, Helgeland adds a dark, comedic element to the Krays and ultimately the film. Ronnie may be a psycho, but he’s a funny psycho and therefore one the audience enjoys watching. Reggie’s savvy Bond-esque stature also contributes a few laughs.
If there is one major downfall for Legend, it’s that the audience are never emotionally invested in either Kray. Sure there are moments when we’re fooled that they’re not quite the monsters that they truly are – but ultimately as hard on criminals, their actions are hard to approve of and it’s difficult to want a happy ending for either.
With calls to make him the next Bond, Hardy’s latest outing acts as the perfect audition to fit the role. He is by far the outstanding component of the film, impressing in this unique duel role. Alongside the overall sparkling depiction of the East End of London in the 60s by Helgeland, Legend is a fun and intriguing watch, if not just for Hardy’s performance(s) alone.