"From Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland comes the true story of the rise and fall of London's most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ron Kray, both portrayed by Tom Hardy in an incredible performance. 'LEGEND' is a classic crime thriller taking us into the secret history of the 1960s and the extraordinary events that secured the infamy of the Kray twins."
Any movie can be made a thousand times better by casting Tom Hardy in it. As if our minds weren’t already blown by Tom’s performance in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ earlier this year, director Brian Helgeland decided to play piggyback and cast Tom as not one, but two characters in his film ‘Legend’. I could easily wrap this up by saying: “Tom Hardy plays identical twins, end of story”, 'cuz that would be a huge selling point, but ‘Legend’ is so much more than just twin Toms (even though this is a very, very good reason to see it).
The film is based on the true story of the infamous Ronnie and Reggie Kray, who were gangsters in London’s East End in the ‘60s. Building an empire of organised crime, the Krays were considered so notorious that you’d cross the street if you saw them coming your way. I didn't know a great deal about the Krays prior to watching the film - I'd heard of their notoriety, but if you asked me to elaborate, I'd be at a loss. I know that there's often some lighthearted debate about reading a book before seeing a movie, but after seeing 'Legend', I was entirely captivated by the Krays, so I ended up delving into John Pearson's true-crime biography, 'The Profession of Violence'. To be honest, I feel like speaks volumes about 'Legend': it consequently sparked an insatiable hunger for knowledge on the film's subject matters.
Without beating around the bush, it's no secret that I have a seemingly undying love for Tom Hardy, but don't for one second be led into thinking this review is biased by affection. There's a very good reason Tom Hardy has been cast in some of the biggest films over the past few years, and that's because he is genuinely talented. It takes a lot for an actor to convince an audience that they've taken on the personality, the traits and the mannerisms of an individual character - but for Tom to take on the role of complex twins who are uniquely multifaceted in a number of ways, well, that's talent beyond the capabilities of just any man. Sure, there's Lindsay Lohan's on-screen twin outing in 'The Parent Trap', but to be blunt, that performance was nothing compared to what Tom brings to 'Legend'. Oh, and there's the scene where Tom Hardy gets in a seamless fist-fight with himself. That's really somethin' else.
As much as I'd like to say 'Legend' addresses some poignant social issues, unfortunately historic accuracy deters the strategic placement of inspiring messages in this film, but there are still some very strong points to take home. Firstly, there's the openly gay Ronnie Kray, who defies a lot of his enemies who stereotype 'gay' as 'weak' or 'overly sensitive'. There's absolutely nothing in this film that adheres to gay stereotypes - even for something set in the 1960s. Ronnie's sexuality is handled with great humour that is never at his own expense, so it's quite a refreshing storyline that went against my expectations. There's also the sad-but-true elements of domestic violence and mental health struggles, which I won't get into for fear of spoilers, but there's definitely some very sad, thought-evoking moments on this issue.
After seeing 'Legend', I spent a good week bleating to friends and family about how good it was, which was often met with the retort, "I don't like gangster films, so it's probably not my thing". If you fall in this category, then please, please make a exception - just this once. While this film does have a lot of dark, violent crime-driven moments (as expected), there’s also a great balance of comedy (e.g. Ron Kray walks around with a donkey), action, drama and romance (with Emily Browning playing a love interest and the film's beautifully-spoken narrator). The romantic storyline has a lot of moments that pull on the heart-strings, so I would easily classify this film as being just as romantic as it is violent. Plus, everything is cinematically stunning (hello 1960s costuming and set design!), so even when you're looking at murder, you're looking at a very beautifully-filmed murder. And if a beautifully-filmed murder doesn't entice you into the cinema, always remember that there are two Tom Hardys in this film. Thank you, Brian Helgeland.
'Legend' is in NZ cinemas from October 15th. Check out the trailer below...