Legend is a film about Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the infamous London gangsters famous for their penchant for violence. Legend is also a film about Tom Hardy though, who gives career-best performances as the two brothers.
With all of Legend’s marketing built around the lead actor, the film’s success was always going to be based on whether it could take the initial ‘gimmick’ of him playing both roles, and turn it into something truly impressive.
The opening few seconds, which take place in the backseat of a car as Ronnie and Reggie are driven somewhere, serve no real purpose other than to introduce you to the concept – your reaction to it will ultimatley determine how much you enjoy Legend. Fortunately, for the film and for us, the idea is executed with perfect poise in front of and behind the camera.
Hardy’s turn as Reggie and Ronnie is much more than simply putting on spectacles so we can distinguish between the two; it’s all about using posture, voice, teeth and spit to make us look past the actor and see the characters on screen as two separate people, with completely different personalities.
You can understand his attraction to the project and it’s one that seems tailor made for him. Not only has he got the charisma and swagger needed for the roles, but he brings with him an essential animal-like ferocity and a terrifying. unhinged quality too.
Writer and director Brian Helgeland’s main interest in the Krays’ story seems to be more in the relationship between the brothers, as opposed to how they became so prolific; so it’s no surprise that the focus would be on Tom Hardy’s performances.
They are married with invisible editing and subtle but brilliant camerawork. Whilst we’ve become used to seeing the impossible made possible in cinema through computer generated imagery, it would be easy to undervalue the technical ingenuity of Legend, but there’s no denying its achievements in this sense.
In its simplest moments, a simple hand on the knee from one Hardy to the other will go unnoticed, but undoubtedly took some time to achieve. At its most complex, a fight sequence between the two brothers is brilliantly brought to the screen, cleverley choreographed and skilfully realised.
The cinematography, set design and costumes evoke the 1960’s wonderfully, and it must be said that Hardy’s supporting cast are also very impressive. Emily Browning is excellent as Frances, who falls for the charms of Reggie Kray – after Hardy, she gives the best performance of the film. With Paul Bettany, David Thewils, Christopher Eccleston and Taron Egerton rounding out the cast, it’s a fantastic ensemble.
The best thing about Legend though is the fun that’s being had by Helgeland and Hardy as they play with the film’s central themes of identity. As the differences between the Krays start to blur into similarities, Legend becomes a great example of using performance as a way of exploring human nature.
Be warned, it isn’t for the faint of heart and with plenty of violence it wears its 18 certificate like a badge of honour. If you can get past the blood and the bone crunching brutality though, Legend is essential viewing for its interesting conceit, but mainly for Tom Hardy’s performances which could very well be the best of the year so far.
Image credit to http://www.comingsoon.net