A miasma of cigarette smoke, swinging 60s music and a powerful dual role make Legend an authentic and engaging biopic of the rise and fall of the notorious London gangsters, the Kray twins. This may just be the film of Tom Hardy’s career.
Yes, this isn’t a true-to-life retelling of the nefarious crimes of Ronnie and Reggie Kray (both played with aplomb by Hardy) as much has been changed – in particular, one sickening act performed by Reggie. Yes, there is too much focus on the romance between Reggie and Frances Shea (Emily Browning). Yes, Ronnie doesn’t feature as much as Reggie does. But none of that matters amongst the powerhouse performance from Tom Hardy.
Hardy has managed to create two distinct personalities, two distinct voices and two distinct characters in the twins. Reggie is engaging, charming and dashing – basically, sans the murdering, Reggie is the epitome of a leading male. Ronnie, meanwhile, is dark, psychotic and dangerous.
You’ll most definitely be rooting for one of the twins over the other, and it wouldn’t take a scientist to work out which. But there is a darkness in both of the twins – obviously – and Hardy does an impressive job of conveying this. And whilst Reggie has both good and dark tendencies, Ronnie is downright dastardly. Aside from a few jokes about his sexuality (‘I’m homosexual, but I’m not a poof!’), Ronnie is very dark indeed.
The story of the Kray twins is well known, so a spoiler warning isn’t required here. Suffice it to say, Legend charts their London takeover and covers the various crimes that Ronnie and Reggie commit. Both commit murder, but whilst one is initially covered up, they both come back to bite the twins, leading to their imprisonment.
But Legend is all about the journey to the dark side (or rather, their journey to a darker side, because the film starts with them both firmly across that line) and Hardy manages to convey great depth and emotion. I can’t imagine another actor in this dual role. For this alone, Hardy reaches the great heights of the film’s title: his performance is indeed legendary.
Supporting Hardy is a criminally underused Christopher Eccleston, as the detective determined to see their downfall, a somewhat OVERused Emily Browning as Frances Shea (her role should have been greatly reduced, to allow the dynamic between the twins to shine further), and David Thewlis as the Krays’ business manager. All are good in their roles, but none are a patch on Hardy.
Legend focuses more on the relationship between Ronnie and Reggie rather than the crimes they commit, somewhat to the detriment of the film’s narrative. But when you have Hardy fighting himself in a very impressive set piece midway through the film, this can be forgiven. The splicing of the two performances into one coherent image is stunning, and it’ll leave you wondering quite how they managed it sometimes.