Wednesday, 28 October 2015
Review: Legend (UK Cert 18)
London in the 1960s. The Kray twins are some of the most dangerous gangsters operating in the city. They're mad, bad and dangerous to know- or cross. Legend takes a look at their rise and fall, told through the prism of Reggie's relationship with Frances Shea (Emily Browning) who became his first wife.
The film, written and directed by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River), starts with the Krays already established as players in London's underworld so neatly sidesteps any origin story issues. It's a decent crime drama, with absorbing performances by Tom Hardy in the dual roles of Ronnie and Reggie.
As Reggie, Hardy is suave, charismatic, persuasive- it's easy to see why Frances falls for him- but he's able to turn on a sixpence. As Ronnie (who starts the film declared insane and in an asylum), he's almost occupying a different plane of reality, but is not less dangerous. Browning is good in a role which could have just easily been a two-dimensional gangster's moll but actually has a bit of substance; Frances tries to get Reggie to go straight but the lure of that life is too much.
Supporting roles are generally strong: Tara Fitzgerald is good as Frances' disapproving mother, whilst Christopher Eccleston is impressive as police officer 'Nipper' Read who tracked the Krays down. John Sessions gets a fruity little cameo as Lord Boothby, a peer whose links to Ronnie gets him into hot water, whilst Kevin McNally is strong as British Prime Minister Harold Wilson whose own administration gets tainted by the scandal. Paul Bettany, Colin Morgan, David Thewlis and Taron Egerton also put in great performances.
As befitting a film about some of the most violent gangsters ever to operate in London, the film earns its 18 certificate with unflinching violence (and copious swearing). It's a blackly funny film as well, with a lot of the humour coming from Ronnie and his slightly skewed view of the world.
The film is well-made but it's not particularly spectacular or powerful. There's an awful lot of 'tell, don't show' through the overuse of Frances' narration which undermines things slightly and there are several liberties taken within the story from what is generally the accepted truth about the Krays which perhaps don't ring as right. All said, decent enough.
Rating: 3 out of 5