By: Daniel Chadwick-Shubat
Legend is the latest installment in a long history of gangster movies. But this movie is a completely different cup of tea. Part Peaky Blinders, part Goodfellas this movie shows the audience something they’ve never really seen on the big screen… gangsters in England.
Something amazing transpires on the screen during the 131 minute running time. We get to see two completely different sides of Tom Hardy, Reggie Kray and Ronald Kray. One a suave, handsome, collective man, the other a completely psychopathic, paranoid schizophrenic. Hardy never misses a beat and you literally think there are two completely different actors playing the twins.
The movie opens with a shot of the two twins sitting next to each other as Frances (Emily Browning) narrates about the start of the Kray’s dominance. In the first 20 minutes we get a fantastic cameo by Paul Bettany as the Kray’s main rival on London’s turf. It was quite refreshing seeing Paul Bettany in a role that wasn’t Marvel related and he provided many of the laughs at the start of the movie.
Then we finally meet the narrator, Frances, Reggie’s love interest in the movie. Emily Browning excels in the role as she portrays a young woman who fights with inner demons, obviously struggling with Reggie’s profession. It is as much character study as it is a gangster movie and that works in its favour, producing an all around great performance by the cast.
And Legend certainly brings us memorable characters. First off Tom Hardy plays Reggie Kray, the suave, handsome, gentlemen of the group. He runs the business side and captures the heart of all the ladies in London. With Reggie we get a confusing character, who seems calm but sometimes out of nowhere loses his shit.
This makes the audience pay full attention to the balanced side of the Kray twins because there’s always a chance that he’ll act like Ronald, just for a moment and change the audience’s perspective of the character. He constantly crosses the line between protagonist and antagonist but for the most part you love him.
Ronald Kray on the other hand is a gay, psychopathic, paranoid schizophrenic who doesn’t think about the consequences his actions might bring, and honestly couldn’t care less about consequences. He brings many of the laughs, with his brutally honest comments and the funny way he looks when he talks.
The Kray twins are complete opposites but somehow Tom Hardy makes that work, and somehow it pulls the audience in more and more. The complex relationship between these two brothers is slowly and carefully studied and by the end we see their true colours.
The timeline sometimes bounces around unevenly, giving the audience moments where they’re not sure how much time has transpired since the previous scene. But Helgeland makes it work and works hard to guarantee a intricate plot that doesn’t miss a beat.
A movie that explores many different shades of grey, Legend can definitely be included in amongst the gangster epics of the 20th and 21st century. A story that was yet untapped by Hollywood was masterfully adapted by Brian Helgeland and brought to life brilliantly by Tom Hardy, Emily Browning and Christopher Eccleston.
Legend was definitely one of the more enjoyable movies of the Toronto International Film Festival but it was also an accurate portrait of British gangster history. The two most well known gangsters in English history were dissected by Helgeland in the perfect way.
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