Tom Hardy’s latest performances have complimented his shelled off exterior—portraying silent but deadly protagonists in films such as The Drop and Mad Max: Fury Road. Legend, however, from Academy Award winner Brain Helgeland (L.A. Confidential), offered the London-born star an opportunity to break that shell as the notorious East London twin gangsters, Ronnie and Reggie Kray. It’s a double feature that will turn many heads, but for as committed as Hardy is, Helgeland’s low-energy, unfocused, slog of a script is tenacious in draining any bit of inspiration and grandeur that would deem the film worthy of its title.
Legend would, of course, suggest the infamous nature surrounding the Kray twins and their control over 60s London. Funded by Las Vegas club mongrel, Angelo Bruno (Chazz Palminteri), the Krays extort and fraud their way to the top. Except the film isn’t concerned with this in the slightest. Instead Helgeland is fixated on Reggie’s formulaic relationship with his pill-popping wife, Frances (Emily Browning), whose only characterization is just that. What’s worse is that when we eventually do revisit the gangster plot, it becomes clear that Helgeland not only blocked each respective thread into its own act but that he crammed everything that made the Krays ‘legendary’ into the final 30 minutes. Rarely, if at all, do we ever see the muscling, the pursuing law, or anything that would engrave the Krays into gangster lore.
Making the whole experience even more tiresome to sit through is the absolutely unsuitable score. What sounded like a stock tune you’d find somewhere in iMovie, would be more fitting as a transition track used in bursts on a Disney channel program rather than to convey the danger or, at very least, shadiness the Krays imposed as notorious criminals. In only a few brief moments is the repetitive chain of uninspired dialogue-hefty scenes broken for a pulse-pounding fight—for a fleeting moment the increasing rattle of a snare drum highlights the intimate intensity, the kind of unpredictable, upbeat conflict the trailers promised.
Worse of all, though, are these flaws’ draining ability from Hardy’s impeccable twining act. Though he more or less recalls his typical form in the level headed Ronnie, the malevolence of his mentally unstable brother seep into a handful of outbursts. Taking on both brothers, the duality was soul striking but ultimately wasn’t enough to carry the energy. This was especially disappointing considering his absolute crazed showing as Ron—spitting, yelling, blabbering nonsense with inflated cheeks, apish stature and a crazed stare through contradicting specs was the darkly vigorous first impression that was unfortunately abandoned far too quickly. Taron Edgerton as one of Ron’s henchmen did a respectable job in attempting to maintain Ron’s deranged brand of humor with hysterical fits of laughter, the perfectly timed wisecrack, and finding genuine joy in Ron’s absurdities. Edgerton’s unexplained role in the mob, however, only highlighted his character’s forced position in the script—yet another victim of its ignorance towards the plot we actually cared about.
Legend receives a 1.5/5