Brian Helgeland is no stranger to gangsters and gangster films. With classics like L.A. Confidential, Mystic River, Payback and now Legend, he proves, once again that he can tell a story and weave interesting characters throughout. Legend came and went pretty fast in theaters despite in sitting at a 60+% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Based on the book “The Profession of Violence” written by John Pearson, Helgeland pens the screen adaptation and directs, as well, which tells the story of the infamous Kray Twins. They were identical twins who were the most notorious gangsters in England in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Reggie and Ronnie left a trail of violence and bloodshed throughout England and both eventually got what was coming to them, but in Legend, Helgeland tones down SOME of the violence and delves into the personalities of the twins. They shared a life of crime but that was about all they had in common.
Reggie was the more normal of the two, but make no mistake he was brutal when he needed to be. Ronnie was a homosexual whose proclivities for young men was only surpassed by his zeal for a criminal empire. Reggie met and fell in love with Frances Shea (nicely played by Emily Browning). She was as smitten with Reggie as he was with her and for a while, it seemed like they would make it as husband and wife, but Reggie’s long prison sentences really put the strain on their relationship. Over time, they grew apart but still managed to find a way to make their marriage work. But Reggie and Ronnie’s criminal enterprise came first most of the time and included a pact with Angelo Bruno, a made man in the Mafia. Ronnie’s behavior became so erratic and dangerously unpredictable that it threatened all of their “business agreements” and the walls finally closed in on the two and they were put away for a very long time.
Helgeland has written an intelligent script that wisely spends more time on developing the brothers as people than to waste time on a lot of gangland violence that we have all seen done before. Tom Hardy plays both of the Kray twins and he crushes it. Reggie was charming, handsome and suave. Ronnie was a moody psychopath who could fly off of the handle at the drop of a hat. Hardy plays Ronnie with a dark and sinister sense of humor and he is creepy to be sure, but there is something extremely watchable with Hardy on screen. Finally, we can watch Hardy without some kind of mask on his face impairing his voice. He is quite graceful and charismatic to see. Helgeland and Hardy don’t ask for sympathy for the Kray Brothers. They were both monsters, sometimes attacked each other and were unrepentant to their end. Ronnie died in 1995 at the ripe old age of 61 and Reggie died at 66 in 2000. There were some that claimed that Reggie became a Christian in his final days, but I guess that is between God and Reggie.
Legend is no classic, but it is a great looking film with beautiful cinematography, set design and solid production values. The digital melding of Hardy as both brothers is seamlessly convincing and the 60’s time period set in London looks and sounds awesome. Legend is complete with some great music of the time and a delightful score by Carter Burwell. Exceedingly well acted by Hardy and convincing chemistry to an adorable Emily Browning makes Legend an immensely entertaining film. It is too bad it was lost in the shuffle. This is NOT a family film but for the adults, it is worth a look.
Legend- **** out of 5
Legend- Rated R for brutal violence, language and nudity
Legend- Runtime is 128 minutes
Legend is now available on DVD and On Demand