Hardy's performance holds this true crime tale together

MoviesBy Esther McCarthy
Hardy's performance holds this true crime tale together

CAN A PERFORMANCE save a movie?

Tom Hardy answers this question with an emphatic ‘yes’   – two times over – in director Brian Helgeland’s intriguing but flawed tale of two very naughty Eastenders.

With a combination of charm, swagger and an unnerving knack for intimidation and violence, Ronald and Reginald Kray ruled the roost in 1960s London – and even earned the admiration and collusion of the New York Mafia – before the law caught up with them.

That the sheer force of their dominance and personality has been the stuff of folklore and legend was always going to present a challenge to filmmakers. It’s hard to make something true and real out of such a pair of snazzy geezers.

In that sense, Legend is a very confused and patchy attempt to bring the Krays to life. Focusing on Reggie’s first marriage to Frances Shea, and largely narrated by Emily Browning, the actress who plays her, the film often feels too limited and narrow in scope. It is Hardy’s extraordinary performance(s) which
give it verve.

The casting of hot British talent Hardy as both twins could have resulted in an extremely gimmicky and unsuccessful portrayal, but the opposite is the case.

It’s a great credit to the actor that within fifteen minutes of the introduction of both characters onscreen, you forget that Ron and Reg are being played by the same person. They are two utterly different incarnations, and Hardy has earned all the love he will get come awards season.

It’s a shame the movie lacks focus, because it sets out to present a very interesting dilemma: does Reggie, the ‘ordinary decent criminal’ of the pair, have any chance of reigning in Ronnie, the more unhinged brother, or does he indulge his sibling’s chaos to meet his own needs?

It’s been well documented that Ronnie suffered from mental health issues and was eventually certified insane, and the film sets out to present a fascinating premise as to whether the more functional brother can keep the Kray’s show on the road.

The focus on the marriage only serves to stymie the film as a crime drama, but Hardy is there throughout, looming large as two very different characters. As a film, it’s deeply flawed, but as a character drama, its lead delivers something very special.

THE VERDICT: A disjointed but intriguing slice of period crime drama.

Legend (16) 3/5 STARS