Legend

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(16user reviews)
Legend

Tom Hardy is on stunningly good form playing 1960s East End hard men the Kray twins

Slick melancholy crime drama ‘Legend’ drops us straight into the mid-1960s glory days of London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray. By then, the twin brothers were ruling the East End, West End and beyond, running clubs and protection rackets, warring with the Richardson family from south London, flirting with the American Mafia and committing the murders that would put them away for life.

In what is surely his finest hour, Tom Hardy plays both brothers. Much more than a gimmick, it’s like watching one side of a mind wrestle with the other – literally, in one explosive, fun-to-unpick fight scene. Each twin is totally distinct: Ronnie operates on a knife-edge of paranoia and delusion (he was schizophrenic); Reggie is tough, precise and protective of his fragile sibling.

The film is written and directed by an American, Brian Helgeland, who wrote ‘LA Confidential’ and ‘Mystic River’, and he makes the Krays’ tale glamorous while also sticking a pin in that glamour; it’s a delicate trick. Early on, there’s a virtuoso one-take shot through a club owned by the brothers, as Reggie takes his fragile girlfriend Frances (Emily Browning) on a dinner date, slipping off to deal with some bloody business in a side room. Contradictions like this suit the facts: Ronnie was a murderous psychopath and openly gay; the twins were as thick as thieves but regularly on the verge of killing each other. Hardy makes us laugh, too, revelling in the Krays’ more grotesque, ridiculous behaviour.

Almost as intriguing as having Hardy play both twins is that Helgeland frames ‘Legend’ as a doomed love story, near enough opening his film with Reggie meeting Frances and ending soon after the failure of their marriage. Frances narrates, quietly dampening the machismo. It’s a smart move which stresses that, for all its true-life origins, this is a story we’re watching, not a reconstruction or creaky biopic.

‘Legend’ plays fast and loose – often amusingly – with the laddish mythology of the Krays. It imagines them as the American-style gangsters they aspired to be and shows how and why that dream failed. A final, noir-ish shot of Reggie walking along an east London canal at night, as Carter Burwell’s mournful score kicks in, saves the boys the indignity of a trial but leaves us in no doubt that the party will be over when the sun comes up. 

By: Dave Calhoun

Posted:

Release details

Rated: 18
Release date: Friday September 11 2015
Duration: 131 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Brian Helgeland
Screenwriter: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Taron Egerton
Tom Hardy
Emily Browning

Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:5
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|16
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1 of 2 found helpful
tastemaker

A cartoon version of South London's colourful, famous, violent & heavy swearing beloved twins. Tom Hardy plays both twins, but the director should have stuck with his original choice - French and Saunders. It was also a mistake to leave out Barbara Windsor  (after all she was in most of the other "carry on" films)

This film is absolute f****** rubbish.  

Tastemaker

I'm really surprised that more people didn't enjoy this film - I loved it! Tom Hardy was indescribably good in his performance of the twin brothers with such different personalities. I was mesmerised by him! I didn't know the story of these twins that well so I really enjoyed watching the film and it kept me on the edge of my seat. Highly recommended.

Tastemaker

What a stellar performance by Tom Hardy who seems to be such a chameleon when it comes to portraying different characters. Here he plays both halves of the Kray twins, the notorious East End 1960s gangsters with great gusto! This movie wouldn't be half as good without Hardy lighting up almost every scene. More a joy to watch his masterclass in character acting over the story itself.

Tastemaker

I wasn't sure what to expect... I actually didn't think it was that bad! Tom Hardy, in my eyes, can do no wrong and to portray two characters in one film is pretty impressive! The CGI dipped in and out (according to my cinema partner) but was generally pretty good and the story was interesting but again, I do love a good historical story (accurate or not so much!) so I'm biased...!

All in all, this won't change your life and could be a bit shorter but generally a good watch...

Tastemaker

I had high expectations for this film and I wasn’t disappointed. Tom Hardy was incredible – he was compelling to watch as both Ronnie and Reggie Kray, and he really did bring something different to each character. The only minus was the voice-over narration – it was quite irritating and unnecessary. All in all though, a brilliant, violent and actually very funny take on the Krays. It may have received criticism for its factual inaccuracies, but Legend is a great, rollicking, thoroughly entertaining ride.

Tastemaker

I hadn't actually anticipated watching this movie, it just happened to be during the only time slot that worked when I turned up to the Everyman cinema in Hampstead. My friend was far more keen than I and after reading the blurb I'd already decided it wasn't 'my kind of film'. However I absolutely loved it! Mainly thanks to Tom Hardy's incredible performance that left you seriously doubting whether he had actually played both characters himself. My favourite line was about the similarities between the aristocracy and criminals. A great film and one I would definitely recommend albeit a little long perhaps.

Tastemaker

Tom Hardy truly at his best, great 'cover your eyes violence' and some funny 'cockney' geezer banter make this an enjoyable film. Drags on and I found myself getting a bit bored in the last leg of the film. Supporting cast are outshone by Tom, wouldn't watch it again and not in the same league as other gritty gangster films. Hope Tom H gets an Oscar nom, he deserves it.

Tastemaker

Mixed feelings about Legend - Tom Hardy's performance is amazing and the whole construction of the film is a techncal feat. But overall I was a bit meh, the story is over familiar and the glorification of criminality leaves me a bit cold. I also found the way the story was told through narration quite irritating - the voice was too child like. So overall glad to have seen it but wouldn't bother to watch again.

Tastemaker

I really enjoyed this film. I still can't remember which one is Ronnie and which is Reggie, but I thought Tom Hardy played a great part with the unhinged one, you could always feeling the tension of 'is he about to turn' bubbling under the service.  He also played the part of the other one well, but I thought the film made him out to be a bit too nice and torn between going straight and the pull of the gangster world.

It was quite violent in parts, but this didn't seem to be gratuitous and fitted in with the film.


I do recommend seeing it, Tom Hardy is a superb actor.  Just don't expect it to be too accurate to how it really was.


Stylised, cartoonish account of the Krays` heyday, made worthwhile by Tom Hardy`s immense turn as the infamous twins.

Tastemaker

WOW really good movies.

Tom Hardy is great playing these two roles.

The film is engaging, sometime brutal, sometimes funny.


I would definitely recommend it to my friends! :)

Tastemaker

I also had high hopes for this film and went to see it in Whitechapel's Genesis cinema. Despite the location, it didn't really get me in the mood... Good entertainment, but not the best Tom Hardy performance ever and the film is quite cheesy and stereotypical. This is one to watch on a hungover Sunday on DVD, rather than join the crowds at an overpriced cinema now.

Tastemaker

I had high expectations for this film and I was not disappointed. Far from watching Tom Hardy play the same character twice, I could easily have been watching two completely different actors. Tom Hardy embodied and committed to the character of each twin, and the talent of his supporting actors should not go unnoticed. When the film was described as a 'love story' in the opening scene I expected it to go downhill from there, but this was a clever, entertaining, informative format for telling the story of these notorious gangsters. There were some scenes which were beyond uncomfortable to watch...but then again they were notorious gangsters - it wouldn't be true to form if there weren't.

Tastemaker

Tom Hardy's Charlie Bronson makes a vicious return to screen as not one Charlie Bronson pretending to be a Kray twin but two Charlie Bronsons pretending to be both Kray twins! This slickly shot, overtly Americanised relaying of the life of the terrifying twosome that ruled London for a bit does not really go anywhere you didn't expect it to, or delve deeper into the Kray twins' motivations than any book or series has done in the past. Having not seen the Pet Shop Boys' take on the infamous East End gangsters it is difficult to say whether nobody has done them better than Tom Hardy has here, but it is a safe bet. Legend is a showcase of his acting range, alas with much of the subtlety removed due to the childish script; imagine if Madame Tussaud's did a moving wax work exhibition - this would be what their Hardy would be like, especially his Ronnie Kray, whose fake jaw, hooter and brow look like the stunt mask worn by Ryan Gosling in Drive - even from a distance it isn't convincing. Nightmare fuel. 


Brian Helgeland wrote L.A Confidential, a film which displayed his talent for capturing the essence of an historical period by distilling it into the recognisable elements of: popular alcoholic drinks and landmark events. An example of the latter would be a gangster in a grotty garage/interrogation facility watching the 1966 world cup final holding off the bobbies who were hauling him away until the England goal which didn't look like a goal was deemed a goal. The soundtrack was a 60s by-the-numbers hit list which wore thin twenty minutes in. Much of Legend is shot strangely in the same vein as the aforementioned noir flick, which feels odd and a bit plastic-y, or 'superficialite', as Ronnie Kray was apparently wont to say.


A range of "I know him/her, he/she was in Doctor Who" actors appear throughout, all of whom are good and some of whom are plain wasted - as in they get brutally killed, victims of the daily workings of gangland life. Of all the pretentious lows the film stoops to, the lowest of all is the voice over (by Emily Browning as Frances Shea) which comes with what Helgeland no doubt considered a clever twist but which ruins any hopes the film had of getting its audience to take it seriously from then on in. 


Don't bother, basically. You c*nts. It is OK to call you that, and relevant, because it is said in the film many times, and in the sixties was no worse than labeling a person a 'dirty beggar' or 'cheeky sod'. 


There's been a lot of promotion of this film, including the Guardian Newspaper's two stars review being carefully squeezed between/layered behind the heads of "Ronnie" and "Reggie" on the poster, so that it looks like some of the Guardian's stars can't be seen!

.

I'm with the Guardian - this is definitely not a 4 star movie:  Though this film is reasonably entertaining, it's very leaden in places, and not much is shown of the various rackets they ran.  Some scenes were particularly long and pointless.  (A number of people got restless in the cinema I was in, and several started playing with smartphones.)  Some scenery was embarrassingly bad - particularly the very obviously painted view of St Pauls from the penthouse.  Twenty minutes of this film could have fallen to the cutting room floor and would have left it harder hitting.

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Not as bad as two stars, but not good enough for three stars:  5/10.