I know what you’re thinking, but no, Legend is not a biopic about me. Nor is it a remake of that trippy 1985 fantasy film with Tom Cruise and a unicorn. This one is actually about the notorious Kray twins, Ronald and Reggie, two mobsters who ruled London back in the 1950s.
Both twins, who have vastly different personalities and even look a little different, are played by Tom Hardy in a powerhouse performance. And yet, despite this and a brilliant supporting cast that includes Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston and Chazz Palminteri, Legend largely slipped under the radar, pulling in just US$43 million at the global box office (against a US$25 million budget).
Legend has a mostly fun, energetic vibe to it, mixing the humour of the contrasting personalities of the twins — Reggie is the levelheaded one, while Ron is literally crazy — with brutal, unrelenting violence. There are also some dark shades to this story with Reggie’s abuse of his young wife (played by Browning), and credit goes to director Brian Helgeland (best known for directing the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 and penning the adaptation scripts to LA Confidential (he won the Oscar for it) and Mystic River) for controlling the rhythm and transitions so that the shifts in tone aren’t too jarring.
The problem with Legend is that it feels like it should have been a whole lot more than it was, given the stars, performances and source material. The story plays out too coventionally, and the developments are predictable despite it being a true story. It’s also too long, of course, with a sagging midsection and an anticlimactic ending. Further, while the Kray twins are fascinating people, it’s not easy to sympathise or empathise with them, making it difficult for audiences to connect with the protagonists. These problems prevent it from being the classic mobster flick it had the potential to be.
Still, flaws notwithstanding, Legend is a very solid mob film with some enjoyable sequences and a super cast. It’s another one of those good-but-not-great movies to throw onto the pile. It’s not quite The Departed, but it’s not quite Gangster Squad either.
3.5 stars out of 5