Director: Brian Helgeland
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Based on: John Pearson‘s book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins
Cast: Tom Hardy, Christopher Eccleston, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan, David Thewlis, Chazz Palminteri, Duffy, Paul Bettany, Paul Anderson
Seen on: 21.1.2016
Reggie (Tom Hardy) and Ronnie (Tom Hardy) Kray are notorious, at least in the East End of London. Officially night club owners, their main business isn’t so legal which brings them under the scrutiny of police officer Nipper Read (Christopher Eccleston) who has yet to find something big that sticks. When Reggie has to go to prison for a while, Ronnie – who is not exactly mentally healthy – starts to get out of hand.
Legend tells a good story with a fantastic cast in a pretty clunky way. Tom Hardy is amazing though in both roles, so if all else fails, there is that.
The story is told by Frances (Emily Browning), Reggie’s girlfriend and, later, wife. That choice did leave a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, not only because I’m generally not a fan of voice-overs that explain the story that I should be watching as it unfolds. But in this case, it’s particularly egregious because later in the film, after we’ve heard her talk about the brilliance of Reggie (and to a lesser extent Ronnie) for a while and how much she loved him even as she hated him, we see him rape her. And while that rape scene was tastefully done – making perfectly clear what is going on without showing the act itself – the tone of the voice over just didn’t fit with that.
The other thing that struck me as supremely weird was the way the film handled Ronnie’s homosexuality, even when we ignore the fact that real life Ronnie was bisexual and not homosexual (hello, bi erasure!). In the film, Ronnie is openly gay in a world that is extremely homophobic, so his insistence, for example, that he is not a “faggot”, he just prefers to fuck guys, but always as the “giver”, is not that surprising. But while the film spends a lot of time on the relationship between Reggie and Frances, Ronnie’s relationships are almost completely ignored. The film talks a big game about homosexuality, but – just as Ronnie himself – there is a homophobic tone to it. It is okay to show Ronnie spank a guy, but goodness forbid that any kind of intimacy is shown – despite the fact that Teddy’s (Taron Egerton) relationship with Ronnie is hinted at in the film.
While those two things struck a wrong chord with me, the film was otherwise pretty entertaining. Hardy shines in both roles. He not only manages to make both Reggie and Ronnie very distinct personalities, it’s amazing how different he looks in both roles. It’s not only the costume and make-up (though that helps) but his entire body language and mimic is completely different as well. Next to him, the rest of the cast is bound to disappear. Technologically it’s also one of the smoothest double roles films I’ve ever seen.
The film features some nice fight scenes and every once in a while it even shows a sense of humor. It still feels a little long and often its parts are a little too familiar, but there is enough in it to make it nevertheless worthwhile.