TIFF 2015 Review | Tom Hardy is Kray-Kray in ‘Legend’

We now live in The Age of Tom Hardy, a magical time in which practically everything this actor touches turns to gold, or at least into 3,000 gallons of guzzleline. Mad Max: Fury Road, Locke, Bronson, The Drop, the list goes on and on and on and on but it nearly stops at Legend, a film that somehow manages to feature not one but two Tom Hardy performances without being outright amazing.

It got off to a good start though. Directed by Brian Helgeland, Legend follows the infamous Kray Brothers throughout their ascent to the top (or is it the bottom?) of the London Underworld in the 1960s. Reggie (Tom Hardy) is the sensible one, violent when he needs to be and rational the rest of the time, and Ronnie (Tom Hardy) is the paranoid schizophrenic who just wants to start a utopia in Nigeria and also kill everybody just for the hell of it.

Tom Hardy Ronnie Kray

The visual effects used to let Tom Hardy to play both Kray brothers ranges from seamless to fairly dodgy, but the problem isn’t with the CGI, it is with Hardy himself, who appears to be utterly fascinated by Ronnie and going through the motions with Reggie. The unhinged Kray brother is yet another of the actor’s fantastic creations, a grumbly mountain of hazy ideas and dumb violence. The respectable Kray brother is a stock character, thanks largely to Helgeland’s script, which flies whenever the Krays go Kray-Kray and plummets whenever they try to act normal. Hardy simply doesn’t bring much energy to Reggie’s humdrum subplot of marrying a nice girl and trying, kinda, to go straight and make her happy. 

Emily Browning plays Frances Kray, and although she is often a very good actress she has even less to work with than Hardy does in their many scenes together. That she also narrates Legend does the film few favors. Legend may be a perfectly functional crime story but it lacks focus and a unique personality, whenever Ronnie isn’t on screen anyway. The Kray brothers were some of the most intriguing and bizarre organized criminals from the 20th Century – just wait until you hear about their orgies – but Helgeland’s film tells their tale from the perspective of Frances, whose personal journey is far more usual and less exciting than those of her husband and his unbalanced bro.

Tom Hardy Legend Emily Browning

It’s not that Legend has no momentum, it’s that it’s moving in the wrong direction, pushing the most familiar elements of the Kray brothers story into the foreground and making all the truly memorable moments feel like anecdotes. The Kray brothers are at their most fascinating when they were given something to work with, a task to be performed in a bizarre new way, and an excuse to act out. Not unlike Tom Hardy. Keeping all of these men at Bay turns Legend into something rather ordinary.

Images via Universal Pictures

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.

 

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