Review – Legend
Rising British star Tom Hardy gives the performance of his life as both Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the infamous gangster twins who ran the east end of London in the 1960s.
In his film career to date, Tom Hardy has already demonstrated what a versatile actor he is. Standout turns in Inception, Bronson and most recently Mad Max: Fury Road had already marked him out as one of this country’s most distinct performers. But in Legend, Hardy has given the performance of his life. Twice.
In fact, you could argue he deserves a nod at the annual awards fiesta for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, so convincing are his portrayals as the Kray twins,
As leading man Reggie, Hardy’s performance is full of depth, wrestling with his criminal instincts, as he tries (but fails) to go straight at the behest of his wife Frances Shea (a suitably fragile Emily Browning), whilst also trying to keep his not-so-stable brother in check. It is a performance of great craft and subtlety, which is in stark contrast to his quite frankly nutty take on loose cannon Ronnie. An open homosexual (“a giver, not a receiver” as Ron is so keen to point out), Hardy’s Ronnie Kray is only a few missed pills short of a psychopath – bringing a large dose of dark comedy and menace to proceedings.
The story unfolds over a period of four years as The Krays go from sparring with South London’s Richardson gang whilst leading detective ‘Nipper Reid’ a merry dance to flirting with the Mafia, all while Frances tries to persuade Reggie to become a ‘legitamate’ club owner. And they still have time to bump a few undesirables off in the process. And it’s in these moments that the film is at its strongest, mixing the pace and mise-en-scene of Guy Ritchie (when he was on form) with some classic Scorsese style set-pieces. But as the story unfolds to focus more on Reggie and Frances and their deteriorating relationship, the film meanders rather and loses its way.
Outside of Hardy’s turn as the two twins, Browning is a little hit and miss as Reggie’s better half, David Thewlis impresses as their ‘fixer’ Leslie Payne, while the likes of Paul Bettany and Christopher Eccleston are somewhat underused.
Once you have stopped trying to spot the joins when Hardy appears on screen as two people at the same time, what unravels is for the most part, a well-crafted, well-acted gangster pic that whilst treading a familiar path, does so with enough panache to feel unique. And in Tom Hardy, it showcases one of the most memorable central performances of the year. Twice.