The Two Toms
Despite providing not one, but two, striking central performances, even Tom Hardy's committed efforts can't quite turn this offbeat romantic-comedy-drama into a memorable gangster film.Legend offers up an intimate look behind the lives of the infamous Kray twins, who rose to power in the 60s in a bid to rule the London underworld. With particular focus on the charming, slick Reggie Kray, we see this ostensible nightclub owner juggle with his place as an East End gangster, his love for his psychotic brother Ronald, and his burgeoning romance with local girl Frankie.Judged on its performances alone, Legend is unmissable. Far from the gimmick that worked for Van Damme (not less than 5 times!) and, to a lesser extent, Adam Sandler, the casting of method actor Tom Hardy is absolute genius. With the modern advantages of digital technology, and the talents of this one man, the dual roles of these disparate twins are brought to life with visceral intensity.
It doesn't take long before you find yourself utterly forgetting that it's Hardy embracing not one, but two parts, getting lost in two very different characters whose conflicts - both outside and between each other - echo across the feature. Similarly, the period East End setting feels utterly convincing, bringing us cobbled streets and back-alleys, local pubs and upcoming nightclubs, all steeped in authentic 60s style. Beyond that, Emily Browning's portrayal of Reggie's love interest presents us with some genuine chemistry and palpable romance, as she tries to pull him out of the world he belongs to, and we get interesting support and cameos from the likes of Christopher Eccleston, Paul Bettany, David Thewlis and even Chazz Palminteri.
It's got all the style and swagger, but Legend doesn't quite have the impact that it should.
Strangely holding back in the violence department, despite a few brutal flourishes, most of the bloody impacts in Legend are curiously delivered off-screen. Whilst this can be effective in a the-less-you-see fashion, here it just feels a little anticlimactic, almost lending the story of these two East End gangsters a glossy, glamorous edge in order to better get you on their side. It feels like a missed trick, and a misguided attempt at making what should be unquestionably hard-to-watch material far more palatable than it ought to be. For all their talk about being gangsters, there's very little legend to these two, and most of what they do revolves around running a nightclub and looking tough. Whilst this might have been enough for the Mitchell Brothers in Eastenders, you expect more from The Infamous Kray Twins.
Ultimately, the relationship between both Reggie and Frankie, and the twins themselves, are given the most respect and attention to detail, proving the more interesting elements in a gangster drama that often tries its best to be anything but. With plenty of comedy and romance - the laugh out loud moments are a nice touch, but would have been better if juxtaposed with a stronger dramatic narrative, and the same goes for the blossoming romance, which jars strikingly with latter-end events - writer/director Brian Helgeland (who wrote LA Confidential and directed the far more well-balanced Gibson vehicle, Payback) doesn't quite get the mix right here. Thankfully, even if he's not quite enough to make this a truly memorable entry - in either the gangster genre or the Brit gangster sub-genre - double Tom Hardy is more than enough to justify a watch.
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