Film Review: Legend

Tom Hardy plays both Kray Twins in Legend. Photo from Studio Canal.



By Holly Chapman

Tom Hardy stuns audiences with his double portrayal of the Kray twins, but seems to depict them as sympathetic, tragic characters. The biopic, which outlines the rise and fall of the Kray twins, attempts to portray a true representation of the brothers. However, we only receive a limited insight into their relationship.

Set on the backdrop of the swinging sixties, there is a fascination and glamourisation of the East End Gangster underworld. Writer and director Brian Helgeland chronicles the Krays’ rise from nightclub owners to dominating the East End with an iron fist. It is this charm that seduces Reggie Kray’s tragic first wife, Frances Shea.

Narrated through the perspective of the innocent Frances Shea, Reggie Kray is portrayed as a suave, charming businessman – in Shea’s words, the “gangster prince of the East End”. Throughout the film however, we see Reggie has no intention of going straight, legitimately just wanting to make money. This ‘businessman lifestyle’ is often confirmed through his defence of their manager Leslie Payne (played by David Thewlis). In stark contrast, there is the mentally-unstable character of Ronnie Kray, who is constantly craving the violence and chaos of being a gangster. This means that Reggie is constantly trying to control his mentally-unstable brother, who, in his quest for bloodshed, ultimately destroys the empire they tried to build.

Through Frances’ eyes we have Reggie portrayed as the protagonist. Played by Emily Browning, she is the disruption in the brothers’ relationship. We gradually watch her mental state unravel, where she feels there is no escape from this gangster lifestyle. The notion of misguided love and misplaced loyalties is ultimately stressed in the film, as it is Reggie’s bond to his brother that ultimately wins, over the loyalty to his wife. Finally, it is this devotion to his brother that causes the Krays’ fall from grace.

Concerning Hardy’s performance, his portrayal of Ronnie Kray was the stronger of the two. To quote Hardy’s own words, Reggie is “a straight lead” – therefore, it is evident that Hardy feels more comfortable playing Ronnie. Reggie is a simplistic character with clear intentions, whereas his brother, being sinister and mentally-unstable, appears to be the more captivating of the twins. This said, in portraying Ronnie Kray as mentally unhinged, Hardy exaggerates the character to the point that he is almost comical, when in reality, Ronnie was a paranoid schizophrenic and was brutally violent.

Ultimately, Hardy still succeeds in portraying two polar-opposite characters. However, through the narration of Frances, the film disappoints by not showing much of Ronnie and Reggie’s relationship as brothers.


One Response to “Film Review: Legend”

  1. Rose

    Oct 11. 2015

    I definitely didn’t find them ‘sympathetic’ after watching the movie. Don’t forget we watch this all through the eyes of innocent girl…

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