Gangsters, guns, and lifetime grudges – Tom Hardly brilliantly brings to life both Ron and Reggie Kray, twin gangsters in London set in the 1960’s in Legend, written and directed by Brian Helgeland,
Right off the bat, the aesthetics of Legend, from the composition of the shots, to the intricacy of the sets, to the tonality of the colors–instantly won me over. The shots were thoughtful, deliberate, and had a subtle beauty that really transcended you into the world of Legend. One sequence in particular that stood out was when Reggie Kray is walking down the street and the buildings behind him are all dazzling pastels. Following this, the scene cuts to the detective running through sheets of laundry hung in the back alley ways of London, where the whites and neutrals were soft, yet resilient. I also thouroughly enjoyed all of the angles by which the action scenes were presented. While, I can’t put my finger on why exactly, I couldn’t help but be enchanted by the visuals of Legend.
While some critics argue Helgeland’s ode to Martin Scorsese throughout the film was slavish and distasteful, I can honestly say that I didn’t mind Helgeland recreating the same atmosphere of gangster films of the past (if I was Scorsese, I’d be flattered).
Visuals aside, I had mixed feelings about the storyline. While constantly engaging (mostly due to Tom Hardy’s performance), it felt a bit unfocused. The story starts off strong, with reoccurring motif’s such as the lemon drops, but too quickly, things became convoluted. Perhaps this was due to Helgeland trying to include too many real life events, not committing to the story of Franny or the story of the Kray brothers, or perhaps it was due to poor delivery of “shift” cues for the audience. With the characters involved in several different scuffles, and the focus shifting back and forth between the Kray heists and Franny’s marriage, it was difficult to present an organized, holistic view of events.
In addition, Franny Kray’s narration throughout the story had an equal amount of peaks and weaks. While her narration presence did add interest and help guide the story line, Franny’s dialogue for her narration tracked back and forth between a personal memoir and cheesy tabloid headlines. While I wouldn’t say it ruined the film, I was a bit disappointed at the lack of depth of Franny’s character, and the lack of catharsis that Helgeland failed to bring through her narration.
All these things aside, Tom Hardy saved the show with his dynamic portrayal of both suave and dangerous Reggie and paranoid schizophrenic Ron Kray. These two characters were so three dimensional, I found myself momentarily forgetting that they were one in the same actor despite the obvious resemblance. For Reggie, Hardy embodies all the strength, danger, and cool of a young powerful gangster in the 1960s. In pair, Ron Kray is portrayed as oaf-ish and contorted, with occasional glimmers of omniscient but deranged insight, leaving the audience feel unsettled and intrigued.
Overall, I give Legend a 7/10. While consistently engaging and visually appealing, Legend lacked the depth and controlled story line that could have made it a truly magnificent film.