“Legend” A British Film-Noire about the Kray Twins of London
Tom Hardy, the Lead Actor, plays both brothers Brilliantly.
“Legend”, written/directed by the American writer Brian Helgeland [L.A. Confidential], explores the depravity and sadism binding the East London twins, Reggie and Ronald Kray, as they assume control of the crime establishment extant in London during the 1960’s. At first, the film’s dialogue was hard to understand because the cockney accents that pervade the different scenes are quite foreign to my ear. However, once I became attuned to the specific rhythms of the underlying dialogue, I found that the script written by Brian Helgeland had some real pearls of insight.
“Aristocrats and gangsters are both narcissists and enjoy flouting the mores of the middle class bourgeoisie; both have immense access to ill-gotten gains.”
Yet the piece de resistance, that makes this difficult movie worth watching is the outstanding acting by Tom Hardy. He plays two completely different personalities brilliantly. On the one hand, Tom plays Reggie Kray, a highly sadistic thug who delights in beating up his victims; while, at the same time, trying to reign in his ostensibly paranoid schizophrenic twin, Ronald [also played Hardy]. The two simultaneous portraits of one seemingly sane gangster alongside his more psychotic twin, makes for a highly textured and nerve-wracking confrontation. Both Helgeland [the director] and Hardy [the actor] have to be highly commended for breaking the predictable stereotype of sanity and insanity. “Legend” details, in a variety of scenes, the insipid decadence of London’s elites as reflected in their homosexual encounters with the schizophrenic twin, Ronald Kray and his boy-toys. I could not help comparing this film to the one entitled, “Dead Ringers”; where Jeremy Irons plays the role of two sadistic twin brothers [gynecologists]; who eventually die in each other’s arms.
The acting, across the board, was quite impressive. Emily Browning played the role of the Reggie’s wife who finally commits suicide after having tried to stop her husband’s obsession with his being a gangster. David Thewlis, the ubiquitous British actor, tries to add moments of reality testing into the twins’ lives as he witnesses their inability to stop themselves from destroying a successful Meyer Lansky-inspired casino business in London.
What makes this film unusual is the fact that beneath the guttural sounds of the cockney accents is an incredible repartee of insights and observations which makes one wonder: who is really the psychotic one in the film –Reggie, Ronald or society in general? As one might suspect, schizophrenics may be crazy but they are not stupid [as I was once told].
I would recommend this film for those of us who have the endurance and patience to watch a brilliant actor, Tom Hardy, weigh through a complicated and highly textured movie that has to be seen more than once in order to truly savor the nuances of depravity in post WWII London. Sometimes movies are made to enlighten not only to entertain.
“Legend” is one of those films that may attain a cult following many years later. For the present time, the film deserves some serious attention.
Tom Hardy should certainly be considered for the best actor award of 2015.
Also, I congratulate the talented writer/director, Brian Helgeland, for a difficult job…. well done.