Tom Hardy displays a pair of spectacular performances in an otherwise unfocussed effort. Playing both Kray twins, the notorious East End gangsters of the 50s and 60s, Hardy’s a magnetic and distinct figure as either brother, compellingly nuanced despite not having great material to work with. Hardy is famous for his physicality and explosiveness, as showcased in everything from Bronson to The Dark Knight Rises. As he showed recently in the criminally underrated Locke, he’s so much more than brawn, putting in a career defining performance as a passive, reactive Welshman driving in a car. Every facet of his ability is on show here as he carries the film. Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) attempts to reduce the unsettling psychopathy of his twin, Ronnie (Tom Hardy), whilst hardly being adverse to violent outbursts himself. Ronnie is the epiphany of comfort in his own skin, outwardly homosexual, taking great pride in his own brutality but having a certain psychotic charisma along with it. Reggie is more determined to present an image of normality alongside his life as a gangster, marrying Frances (Emily Browning), a local sweetheart and flirting with the idea of going straight with his business empire, or at least providing more of an impression.
Hardy does as good a job as he possibly can to bring out some nuances in this fraternal relationship. The problem is the film doesn’t focus on anything. There is not enough sense of any overriding themes or ideas that link the film together. It feels like it’s shooting at a variety of targets and not really aiming at any of them. For example, Legend is interested by the overpowering physical strength of its protagonist but doesn’t delve into the source of this energy or go deep enough into giving a sense of the fear elicited. Similarly, Hardy does his utmost to explore the dichotomy between the brothers but director Brian Helgeland doesn’t give the story enough dramatic purpose. Events feel rushed, such as an incident early in the film when Reggie surrenders and has a stint in prison and it’s not clear why, especially as everything we had seen up to that point made him seem invincible.
It’s worth seeing solely for Hardy, he’s so good you forget the special effects that make it possible. It’s just a shame the strings of the film are as unwired as the mental state of these compelling twins.
Review by David Rank
Legend is out now in the UK. Rating 18 (UK). Running time 131 mins.