Magazine article Variety

Legend

Magazine article Variety

Legend

Article excerpt

Legend

DIRECTOR: Brian Helgeland

STARRING: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning

There are two good reasons to make what might otherwise seem an inessential new biopic of Ronnie and Reggie Kray - and both of them, as it happens, take the formidable form of Tom Hardy. Playing both the infamously savage Cockney crime lords in a dazzling feat of thespian self-splicing to rival Jeremy Irons in "Dead Ringers," Hardy's inspired twin turn elevates and complicates the otherwise straightforward terrain of "Legend," in which U.S. writerhelmer Brian Helgeland gives London's East End gangland a slightly touristy candy-coating of Swinging '60s glamor. While Helgeland's script lacks the wit and grit of his Oscar-winning job on "L.A. Confidential," this lengthy, engrossing underworld saga creditably attempts to work a female perspective - that of Reggie's innocent wife, Frances - into the proceedings. If the Hardy Boys' film-swallowing contribution ultimately thwarts the effort, that can't be helped.

Given an enduring local fascination with the Brothers Kray, business should be brisk in Blighty, where the pic opens ahead of its international premiere in Toronto. In the U.S., "Legend" may viably be marketed two ways by the currently indomitable Universal: as a lavishly violent genre outing and as a more prestigious awards vehicle for its duplicated leading man. Interestingly, Hardy's own performance splits along comparable lines. His Reggie is a suave, charismatically volatile antihero calculated to inspire perverse admiration among younger male auds; his playfully eccentric inhabitation of the gay, mentally unstable Ronnie would, on its own, rep the more extravagant bid for thespian kudos. That both these achievements are contained within a single performance is, of course, its true marvel.

Still, for all Hardy's expressive detail and physical creativity, Helgeland's chewy, incident-packed script offers little insight into what made either of these contrasting psychopaths tick, or finally explode. Elsewhere, it's Frances Shea (Emily Browning) - the workingclass ingenue who married Reggie in her teens before succumbing to drugs and depression - who acts as the story's principal female agent. Frances is even granted the film's guiding voiceover, narrating the Krays' antics in disillusioned tones from the outset until, via a cruel structural fillip, her point of view is harshly stymied. …

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