Tom Hardy is doubly mesmerising in the dual roles of East End gangster twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray in Brian Helgeland’s brazen crime biopic Legend. His head-turning performances are so good, in fact, that it’s easy to forget the gimmicky casting and camera trickery and simply enjoy the acting fireworks as his slick Reggie and psychopathic Ronnie blaze their way across Swinging Sixties London.
As his film’s title indicates, American writer-director Helgeland (screenwriter of LA Confidential) takes an unashamedly mythic approach to the brothers’ exploits. Which is fine when it comes to showing the Krays carving out their underworld territory in the East End, rubbing shoulders with toffs and celebrities in their West End nightclubs and acquiring a notorious glamour. The glamour might have been spurious but it was certainly there, and Legend conveys it with flash and dazzle.
But Helgeland’s approach is less successful at conveying what – beyond a fierce brotherly bond – made the Krays tick. Having the film narrated in voice over by Emily Browning’s Frances Shea, the emotionally fragile teenager Reggie wooed and wed, doesn’t offer any real insight into their psyches and is unsuccessful as a device.
Still, Hardy is terrific, whether conveying Reggie’s ‘gangster prince’ swagger or Ronnie’s menacing volatility.
Certificate 18. Runtime 131 mins. Director Brian Helgeland.