Film Review: “Legend”

Tom Hardy plays both a charming convict and his impulsive twin in a crime film that offers limited thrills.

Rating: 3/5
Directed by Brian Helgeland
Starring Tom Hardy, Taron Egerton, Emily Browning
Rated: R
Release Date: Nov. 20

The dynamic and dangerous duo of two Tom Hardys brings chaos, violence and general badassery to London. The narrator aptly notes “The Queen would survive, but God save the rest of us.”The dynamic and dangerous duo of two Tom Hardys brings chaos, violence and general badassery to London. The narrator aptly notes “The Queen would survive, but God save the rest of us.”

Legend centers around the Kray brothers (Tom Hardy), two twins heavily involved with the inner circle of London crime in the 1960s. The first brother, Reggie Kray, is as charming as he is frightening, smoothly transitioning from a charismatic heart-throb to an intimidating criminal. The second brother, Ron Kray, can only be described as unhinged and violently unstable. He’s diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and his actions are highly unpredictable, resulting in a slew of issues for Reggie and their business. A large part of the film follows the relationship between Reggie and Frances Shea (Emily Browning), who is pushed and pulled by Reggie’s complicated life, causing him to be in and out of prison and her to question what kind of man he really is.

The idea of two drastically different brothers lording over criminal London together sets up for some very rowdy and hilarious scenes. They strike deals, form alliances, intimidate men who owe them money and take part in other mob movie staples, all amid Ron’s ill-timed breakdowns and inappropriately blunt comments. During Reggie’s wedding, Frances’s mother, who is less than pleased with the union, refuses to sing, so Ron gets in her face mid-ceremony and yells, “Fucking sing!”. Ron’s lines as well as the brothers’ brawls are outrageous and entertaining in all the right ways; brotherly bickering translates to bar fighting surprisingly well, especially when Tom Hardy’s opponent is Tom Hardy.

His unpolished humor aside, Ron is a complicated character with many layers. Despite his mental illness, he has an unexpected amount of wisdom that surfaces at random. Though criminally insane, he is not the source of the film’s most heinous crimes. Reggie is equally if not more responsible for bloodshed. The comparison of the brothers’ misdeeds and their respective mental states makes it unclear which brother is the more obvious villain and calls our assumptions of roles into question.

Though the film is comic, thought-provoking and action-packed, it is also riddled with shortcomings. Is Helgeland’s use of humor suitable for this film? It brushes up against more than a handful of fairly heavy issues: drug addiction, suicide, rape, murder, mental illness and others. Yet it doesn’t quite find the balance between seriousness and humor to achieve a black comedy, the jokes too frequent to serve solely as comedic relief. What results from the uneven spurts of humor is a dark film with inappropriate flippancy. The tone very clearly doesn’t match the topic, though the central theme itself isn’t clearly defined.

Legend couldn’t seem to decide on what it wanted to say. Was the film about Ron and Reggie’s complicated relationship, Frances’ interaction with Reggie, the Kray brothers’ empire or Reggie’s fall from glory? We’re not even completely sure who the main character is. The movie is split fairly evenly between Reggie and Frances.
While the film provides a healthy amount of slapstick humor, it is less than successful in getting its point across. The pros fail to counteract or even outweigh the cons, letting a storyline with so much potential fall flat in its execution.