Legend (2015)

Legend (2015)
  • Time: 131 min
  • Genre: Biography | Crime | Thriller
  • Director: Brian Helgeland
  • Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis


Focusing on the relationship between Reggie Kray and Frances Shea, told from France’s’ point of view as someone who knew him best, as well as the mental health issues Ronnie Kray faced and their rise to power as the notorious gangsters of London.


  • Martin Scorsese is a master at what he does and films such as Casino and GoodFellas will forever be immortalized. That is both a curse and blessing for future filmmakers as they will always be accused of trying to be like Scorsese. And fans of both films will agree that there is a love/hate relationship with films that try and mimic Scorsese’s style. Legend looks like GoodFellas and sounds like Casino and the feeling of hate starts to take over. But Legend has Tom Hardy and that is enough for that hate to turn into love.

    From Academy Award (R) winner Brian Helgeland comes the true story of the rise and fall of London’s most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ron Kray, both portrayed by Tom Hardy in an incredible performance. LEGEND is a classic crime thriller taking us into the secret history of the 1960s and the extraordinary events that secured the infamy of the Kray Twins.

    I am not sure if director Brian Helgeland is aware how much he has borrowed from Scorsese’s wheelhouse but he sure borrowed a lot. Just like most directors who attempt to walk the Scorsese path, the director does not replicate that Scorsese magic. Another thing that is evident from this year’s gangster films (Black Mass and now Legend), is that gangster films are a broken record that keep on repeating themselves.

    Once you overlook any resemblance to a Scorsese film then you will see the true gem of the film, Tom Hardy. After all, gangsters are movie stars with muscle which is a perfect description for Hardy. He is at his best as the suave and agonized Reg. Don’t worry, you won’t confuse the two Krays and it’s not just because of the glasses. Hardy’s walk, grin, manner of speaking as Ron makes him appear bigger than life and is the true gangster of the film.

    If you want to enjoy this film then sadly you must not look past Hardy. The only other character of importance in the film is Reg’s wife, Frances and she is awfully underwritten. We constantly hear about her psychological damage but never do we once actually see it unfold until it is too late. Not even Helgeland handled Frances with care as her brother instructed Reg to.

  • “They were the best years of our lives. 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. We were…untouchable,” Ronnie Kray wrote in his autobiography, My Story. This was no hyperbolic self-aggrandising. Ronnie and his twin brother Reggie were the dark princes of London, their reign as bloody and violent as any in royal history. Their grasp extended past the underground, reaching into the hallowed halls of Parliament and intertwining with the celebrity culture of the day.

    The Krays have never completely left their country’s public consciousness, resurfacing every now and again in newspaper articles, books, theater plays, song lyrics, TV programmes, and films. Legend, written and directed by Brian Helgeland, is the latest to depict the twin terrors. If films were judged on performance alone, then Legend would be an unequivocal masterwork for Tom Hardy turns in not one, but two stellar portrayals as both Ronnie and Reggie Kray. (Previous film versions featured different actors playing each twin – Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp and Martin Kemp in 1990’s The Krays; Simon Cotton and Kevin Leslie in 2015’s The Rise of the Krays and the recently completed The Fall of the Krays.) Yet films are more than showcases for award-caliber performances. Legend is an unsatisfying and nebulous work, perfectly content to skim the surface and leaving all the heavy lifting to Hardy.

    The film is narrated by Frances Shea (Emily Browning), who met Reggie at 16 and married him at 22. It’s an interesting tactic which should serve to not only view a male-dominated milieu through the eyes of a character normally relegated to the sidelines, but also to set up the semi-incestuous triangle between Reggie, Frances and Ronnie. Moreover, by positioning Frances in a more significant role, it would also allow a first-person perspective on the dangers of being seduced by the charismatic but horrible piece of work that was Reggie Kray. The problem with this device is that it is either redundant, expository without actually explaining anything, and just plain illogical (though the reason for the lack of logic will be revealed later in the film). As a character, Frances makes no sense and her trajectory from lovestruck girl to the pill-popping, emotionally and physically abused wife is choppily detailed. Helgeland does not have to show every little step of the journey, but he should know enough to build a bridge here and there.

    Unlike the 1990 film directed by Peter Medak, Legend eschews the brothers’ childhood to concentrate on the highlights and lowlights of their heyday – the turf war with the Richardson gang, the notorious South London gang headed up by Charlie Richardson (Paul Bettany); the scandal with conservative peer Lord Boothby (John Sessions), with whom the openly homosexual Ronnie was purported to have had an affair; their dealings with the North American mafia, represented by Angelo Bruno (Chazz Palminteri); and the murders of George Cornell (Shane Attwooll) and Jack “The Hat” McVitie (Sam Spruell), which would lead to the Krays’ eventual downfall. Helgeland doesn’t spare viewers from the brothers’ raging brutality – McVitie is repeatedly stabbed with a carving knife by Reggie and Ronnie bashes members of the Richardson gang with a hammer during the infamous brawl at the Blind Beggar pub. No battle is more disturbing than the no-holds-barred fight between the brothers – Ronnie grabbing and lifting Reggie by the crotch and Reggie breaking his brother’s nose – which ends in an embrace that can be read as either desperate brotherly love or suffocating entrapment.

    The bloodletting is lovingly detailed as is the period setting. Particularly praiseworthy is Caroline Harris’ costuming of Ronnie and Reggie. Even if Hardy’s portrayals had been sub-par, one could have easily delineated one brother from the other. Reggie’s suits are exquisitely tailored and worn with ease whilst Ronnie’s are slightly ill-fitting, emphasising his more bulldog demeanour. The clothes are but a small part of what makes Hardy’s achievement so astonishing. As Reggie, he is as magnetic as he is menacing. As Ronnie, he may be fretful and paranoid, but he is also terrifyingly liberated in his violent and sexual impulses. His frankness about his homosexuality (Ronnie admitted to being bisexual) indicates not only a lack of shame but a willingness to go past the boundaries of convention, and it is that matter-of-factness that unnerves and unsettles those around him. If only Helgeland had matched Hardy’s level and aimed for something darker and more complicated, then Legend would have been a modern gangster classic instead of a shallow retread.

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  • “Come to Philadelphia! You see a nice girl, we’ll get her for you!
    I prefer boys. Italians, sometimes Greek, but I am not prejudiced. ”

    “Legend” certainly won’t be remembered as a brilliant gangster movie. You certainly can’t compare it with a gangster epos like “The Godfather” or “The untouchables”. This film about the notorious Kray twins surely exhibits a successful retro look and shows how the brothers founded their business empire full of glamor and violence, and how it gradually crumbled. Partly because they were constantly watched by the authorities and also because of the psychotic behavior of one of the brothers. The best part of this film is Tom Hardy’s acting performance. It looks like a rematch after “Mad Max: Fury Road” where he served as a defenseless blood donor and where he was outplayed by Charlize Theron. “I’m going to show everybody my capabilities” he probably thought. And so he volunteered to play both twin brothers.

    It took me a while before I suddenly realized that I was looking at the same person. It’s creepy to see how different those two main characters are. Not just physically but also their personalities differ. Ron has chubby cheeks, old-fashioned glasses and a drooping lower lip so during an outburst of anger you’ll see spit flying in all directions. Reggie is the brushed off, athletic and more intelligent type. He’s the mastermind behind the whole operation and has both a charming as a ruthless side. But mainly the over-protectiveness towards his brother is a disadvantage. Ron is the unpredictable part of the twins. He’s rather short-tempered and needs to take medications to keep that in control. Most attention is paid to the difficult relationship between the two brothers. An astonishing piece of acting.

    Don’t expect a lot of violent scenes. There’s only the incident in a local pub with a rival gang where the brothers briefly demonstrate their tough approach. Rest assured there will be some of them walking around with sore kneecaps. The rest of the movie is filled with the familiar “policeman tries to catch the criminal without much success”, short stays in prison, a slowly burgeoning relationship which is doomed to become a failure and the collapse of the Kray Empire due to a crazy brother. Furthermore a big applause for the scenery and authenticity you can admire. The old London of the ’60s revived again in this film. The soundtrack matched perfectly. And then there’s also some humor hidden in this film.

    You can’t call this film legendary. It’s a mixture of different story lines. The ins and outs of a gangster duo who kept the underworld of London firmly in their grip. Connections with the American mafia is maintained in order to build up a money laundering circuit. The charismatic brother starts a relationship with the lovely Frances (Emily Browning) who hopes that Reggie abandons his gangster life. And the wedge driven by Frances between the two brothers is something Ron can’t live with. So he starts reacting totally schizophrenic. The biggest obstacle for me were the dialogs in a fairly heavy English dialect. Especially mumbling Ron was difficult to understand. The only legendary thing about “Legend”, was the world performance Tom Hardy had in store.

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  • Now the story of the Krays is extremely well known in the UK up and down the country and so when we witness this on screen we know exactly what to expect, Lots of violence, insanity and deceit wrapped up in a twin bow. Now don’t get me wrong we see all of this in Legend but by the ending of the film I was left feeling like it was missing something.

    This is by no means a bad film, In fact its above average but I feel like Tom Hardy’s excellent performance pushed it there and the rest was like a hollow shell with not much to offer.

    My biggest annoyance with the film is there is very rarely scenes where the threat of violence looms which in doing so brings in a tense dramatic atmosphere. A great example of this is the film ‘The Equalizer’ where a certain restaurant scene made you quiver in fear and awe far more than any actual violence would do. After all its the perfect setting for scenes like that in Legend as The Krays real power came from not violence itself but the threat of it.

    Now the slight comedy aspect of Legend threw me off a little bit to be honest but after a few attempts it fell into rhythm and worked reasonably well with the film, But by far what made this film was Tom Hardy’s performance. It is incredibly difficult to portray not one but two different characters in a single film but he managed it amazingly and there is absolutely no better actor to take on this role. He held this film together and kept you watching through the duller scenes and the long build up.

    The narration was well done and we got to see another figure in this well known tale have her story told but it never felt truly whole and it sidetracked us from more prominent people in the gang organisation who’s faces were rarely seen and their story left unheard.

    In ending I will say this a great one time watch film and if you’re a fan of Tom Hardy as I am then I recommend watching Legend just for his outstanding performance alone.

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