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article imageReview: Tom Hardy elevates ‘Legend’ above being just another mob movie Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 4, 2015 in Entertainment
‘Legend’ features a stellar performance by Tom Hardy, who portrays identical twin gangsters who rose through the ranks of Britain’s most notorious criminals in the 60s.
In spite of their dreadful deeds, people cannot help but be fascinated by the lives of notorious mobsters and criminals. This attraction has spurred an entire genre of movies and TV shows that depict their disreputable activities for insatiable audiences. Though the intention is not necessarily to glorify their lifestyles, it’s often easy to be distracted by their wealth and power and overlook that they gained it through various illegal actions, including murder. Legend takes viewers atypically across the pond to tell the story of twin brothers who wanted to rule London’s underworld.
Ronald and Reggie Kray (both played by Tom Hardy) were nearly identical in appearance, but mentally they were night and day. Reggie was ambitious and business-minded, running a successful nightclub through which they laundered money and conducted other business. Ronald was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic with violent tendencies who didn’t like taking his medication. Yet, they were basically inseparable — until Reggie met Frances (Emily Browning). They fell in love, but she didn’t want to spend her life as the wife of a criminal; and he couldn’t choose between the straight life he promised her and mobster rule with Ronald. Eventually something would have to give, but the end wasn’t going to be a pleasant ride to the finish line.
Playing two roles is a challenging endeavour that Hardy competently and heartily meets head-on. In spite of their physical similarities, there are distinct differences between the brothers to the extent that Ronald actually appears slightly taller. He also wears glasses and has an under-bite. These minor but influential transformations likely aided in Hardy’s ability to channel the personality of the required sibling in a given scene. Reggie is undoubtedly the more conservative brother so his part of the narrative focuses on his relationship with Frances and his attempts to grow the business. Due to Ronald’s proclivities, he’s the more interesting of the two. He’s open about his homosexuality, hosts orgies, has no verbal filter, and becomes increasingly and unpredictably aggressive as the picture progresses.
The supporting cast unavoidably plays second fiddle to Hardy’s powerhouse performance. Browning also doubles as the narrator, providing Frances’ perspective in hindsight which is both insightful and somewhat meddlesome in the audience’s experience of watching the story unfold. Browning has featured in some horror movies and other fluff, but this may be her first truly meaty role — and she’s quite adequate as a stylish woman of the ‘60s whose family is sometimes frightening. The ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, portrays a detective leading the investigation against the Krays, determined to indict them with a multitude of charges though gathering admissible evidence is very difficult.
Outside of there being two protagonists, this is a fairly typical mob story. They experience the same rise and fall of any kingpin, leading a prosperous business and making important connections before self-destructive behaviour threatens to destroy their house of cards. They are incredibly passionate in everything from relationships to commerce, well-dressed and willing to fight when necessary. But were the dynamic, individual characters and Hardy’s performance not so captivating, the film would simply be another conventional contribution to the genre.
Director: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning and Christopher Eccleston
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