Tom Pheby and his twin Tom Pheby review the recent cinematic retelling of the Kray's story, now out on DVD.
Legend, directed by Brian Helgeland, attempts to explore the complicated relationship between The Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie. The Krays themselves were charismatic but barbaric, achieving their aims through a
catalogue of violence and extortion rackets which were conducted
indiscriminately during 1960's London. The twins took great care to
cultivate their image and reputation so that no one dare challenge them,
at least East of the river Thames.
It's a story that's been told on screen before. It's a story that was even told twice last year between this and The Rise of the Krays, but no other version had the benefit of Tom Hardy, and here Hardy is sensational. He delivers an interesting and controlled performance as both the notorious East End gangsters, distinguishing the pair by way of voice, demeanor and
appearance. The scenes featuring both twins are incredible, but despite Hardy's best efforts, and although the movie itself is absorbing, it still falls short in a few important areas.
If Legend was attempting to explain the actions of Reggie Kray because of his unshakable family loyalties or commitment to his twin, then it failed. If we were meant to be sympathetic because events were spiraling beyond Reg's control, then it missed its intended target. Indeed, if we were meant to feel any sympathy towards either brither, then it failed on
that level too, but Legend certainly managed take the story in a different
direction, away from the Kemp brothers version of The Kray's which
focused mainly on the unnecessary violence.
Legend does deliver a strong sense of the era, the rebuilding of London after the war and
the opportunities that presented themselves to the emerging criminals, and the film briefly touches on the scandal that threatened to upend the government and on the tenacity of Leonard 'Nipper' Read (played brilliantly by Christopher Eccleston) who eventually bought the pair to justice. I should also mention Emily Browning who is very good as Frances Shea, and drives the
story along as narrator. If anything, she was one of the real victims of
the Kray's quest for celebrity and riches, as her only crime was her
The script does manage to convey the turmoil, confusion and recklessness of the pair, especially Ronnie who reveled in his gangster status. At one point after fighting with his brother in their club he admits that he is fragile and not his self. Although this is a pivotal moment in the film, one feels empty to his plight. Instead you just marvel at Tom Hardy's undeniable talent, because there are few actors who could manage this with such skill, and fewer still that could stop it from falling into cliché or parody.
All in all Legend is flawed yet interesting film. Watch it for Hardy as he is sensational, and far better than what's going on around him.
Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half
English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting
on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film
abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town
of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter