The story of the notorious Kray twins get a modern makeover in this week’s release, the flawed but entertaining gangster biopic Legend.
Starring Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy as twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie, the film looks at the rise and fall of the Krays and their brief but glitzy reign over the underworld during London’s swinging sixties.
From boxing brothers to protection racketeers and nightclub owners flirting with the upper echelons of British society, the story of the Krays has captured the British imagination like few others. This latest telling from writer-director Brian Helgeland focuses heavily on the relationship between the siblings, how it gave them strength but ultimately led to their downfall.
Although strong support is provided by a cast including Christopher Eccleston as the policeman determined to bring down the brothers and Emily Browning as Reggie’s long-suffering wife, the film’s success rests heavily on Hardy’s performance as both the psychotic Ronnie and ambitious Reggie.
It’s a performance which contains many high points, particularly during the portrayal of Reggie. Hardy brings the struggles of this character to life with skill, playing a man whose big dreams are constantly threatened by the police, by rival gangsters and ultimately by the instability of his younger brother.
When it comes to Ronnie things are more uneven. While it looks as though Hardy had more fun playing this psychopath with a voracious appetite for violence, it’s a weaker routine. There is a reliance on over-the-top, bug eyed spluttering which gets a little distracting at times.
However, the story remains engaging, containing a few surreal moments as it flits around the lives of the Krays as they battle it out in grimy pubs, then hobnob with stars and politicians. The film feels a little long, but Helgeland keeps things moving.
Ultimately the Krays fell short of their criminal ambitions and similarly Legend isn’t destined to become a classic gangster movie. But it’s still an entertaining ride, taking an interesting approach to an unusual story.