Magazine article Screen International

'Legend': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Legend': Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr. Brian Helgeland, UK-US, 2015, 131 mins.

The casting of the ever-intriguing Tom Hardy as violent 1960s London villains Ronnie and Reggie Kray in Brian Helegeland's biopic Legend was the film's main selling point through its pre-production process and his gutsy, typically physical performance as the terrorising twins remains its calling card at the end of 131 lengthy minutes of lurid Cockney drama.

Premiering at Toronto before opening in the UK through Studi°Canal and onto the US via Universal on October 2, Legend's commercial success will rest on the actor, riding high on the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, and he delivers a sufficiently flashy dual-performance to usher this into a good opening week and mid-range VOD success. (Bronson fans will certainly see glimpses of the actor they admire). Critical attention and word of mouth is likely to be nuanced, and the film is over-long at 131 mins, but the 1960s-London milieu and the legend of the Krays is always good for publicity in the UK, even if some commentators may object to the production's glossily-stylish rendition of two violent criminals.

The Kray Brothers, already eulogised in 1990's The Krays with similar stunt casting of the Spandau Ballet brothers Martin and Gary Kemp, are renowned for personifying a particularly London mix of sex, violence and politics in the Swinging Sixties. Scandal catalogued the exact same era, to better effect. They were violent gangsters who terrorised the East End; Ronnie was gay and sadistic; he had sex with politicians, compromising the Establishment. Reggie was your more common or garden swaggering, violent bully, and, later, a vicious killer.

From its opening frames, which depict the brothers in the back of a car, it's easy to buy Hardy's dual performance, and it doesn't get in the way of the film - although some actor-ly exuberance in the delivery of Ronnie can sound an off-note, with Hardy using some facial prosthetics around the jaw line which aren't particularly subtle.

Helgeland, who adapted LA Confidential and wrote and directed 42 and A Knight's Tale, occasionally demonstrates a tin ear for 1960s London, garlanding Hardy's thuggish twins in comically lurid dialogue, but a bigger hurdle is the decision to set Legend up as a love triangle of sorts between the twins and Emily Browning as Reggie's ill-fated wife Frankie. Physically, the slight actress is powered offthe screen by Hardy, and her character's arc isn't substantial enough to square up to the twins. …

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