“Legend” is the true story of twin brothers Reggie and Ronald Kray, gangsters who ruled London in the 1950s and 60s. Tom Hardy, who’s established himself as one of the actors of the decade with memorable performances in “Locke”, “Warrior”, “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”, plays both brothers – in this underwhelming, confused crime drama.
This is writer/director Brian Helgeland’s follow-up to “42”, his biopic about baseball “legend” Jackie Robinson. The Krays’ story, as he presents it, is far less interesting. Reggie is the leader of the Krays – the smart, sensible one – the brains of the Kray operation, which has been ruling London’s East Side underside, and is now looking to expand. Scotland Yard has been investigating them for years, but authorities can’t come-up with enough evidence to shut them down – yet. Early in the film Reggie falls for Frances (played by Emily Browning) – the sister of one of his drivers. She narrates the story – often describing the highs and lows of being in love with a gangster. Once they plan to get married Reggie promises Frances that he’ll go straight, but everyone knows that’s not going to happen.
As for Ron, he’s the unstable brother. Not a great businessman or negotiator, he’d rather simply solve the brothers’ problems by shooting, stabbing and killing anyone who gets in their way – anything to stay on the top of London’s crime empire. But make no mistake – the brothers truly love each other – and it’s the love-triangle between Ron, Reggie and Frances that’s at the heart of “Legend”.
This film is truly a mixed bag. Early on, it has a slick, cool vibe with fun music, two quirky, but appealing focal points in the Krays, intriguing work by Hardy and some nice scenes between Reggie and Frances. But the lack of a smooth narrative flow really prevents you from getting taken-in. Scenes of graphic violence are rare, and so they completely throw you off and are played too much for laughs. And the rest of the time this movie is a romance – with way too many talky scenes involving Reggie and Frances – and later, Frances alone as she falls apart.
In short – “Legend” needed to be a little more “kray kray”. You do have to give Hardy credit for pulling-off both roles. And the editing is seamless. But that’s not enough to say “Legend” lives-up to its title – or even close.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Legend” gets a C.
Running Time: 132 min.