Director : Brian Helgeland
Written by : Brian Helgeland
Oddly under-used as the title character in Mad Max; Fury Road, it felt like the movie universe owed us a double helping of Tom Hardy. Legend delivers exactly that.
Hardy plays both Kray twins, real-life London gangsters from the 1960's, but any fears that the dual roles would be a distraction are dispelled early as Hardy gives each brother an array of differences in look, sound and attitude. He plays Reg as an ambitious young man from the East End who openly walks the streets where everyone knows his name. But as his world grows, his posture closes. He approaches conversations with his heavy shoulders hunched and chin down. As a boxer, he knows about minimising his target areas. His sixties era suits remind you of Mad Men, but unlike Don Draper, Reg Kray's vibe is not seductive. He has the same GQ style, but his underlying menace means you can't be sure if the glass he holds is for drinking whisky or for smashing into your face.
Ronny Kray, on the other hand stands taller and uglier. A certified madmen, he cares not for consequences and bristles against the upwardly mobile ambitions of his brother. As comfortable attacking with a hammer as he is with frank pronouncements of his homosexuality, Ronny is a true wild card and is a compelling creation.
While Legend follows the broad conventions of a gangster biopic, it is clearly scant on detail and feels more like a platform for Tom Hardy the actor than anything ever intended to be a historical document of fact. It's arguable whether Hardy's performances overwhelms the film or elevate it , but what's not up for debate is his versatility. When you combine his Kray twins double act, his command performance in Bronson and his subdued Locke, he's making a strong argument for the actor of his generation. There was a couple of times when his Bane tones could be heard in Ronny's voice. He was having fun.
The casting around Hardy is solid, with special note to Reg's right hand man Albie (Paul Anderson) who looks so completely of the time and place it's almost shocking that he exists in 2015 as a real human. Chazz Palmetari's presence provides the Gangster pedigree and Christopher Ecclestone does all he can with limited opportunity. A different version of this film would have had his Nipper Read as the central character. However none of the supporting characters garner any sort of sympathy. Central here is Reg's wife, Frances Shea (Emily Browning) who provides the narration and should bring the humanity, but she seemed most disappointed that Reg's connection to Ron rebounded him back to the East End when she hoped he was her ticket out.
Reg tells Frances early on that "the centre of the universe can be anywhere you want it to be" and it's a nice sentiment that is repeated later in the film. But by then we know that Reg is the centre of his own universe and as long as he has Ronny in his orbit, it was always going to turn into a black hole that would ultimately destroy everything.