‘Legend’ movie review: Tom Hardy is fascinating to watch as the Kray twins

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I’m not generally the sort of person who will gravitate towards gangster films. There’s something I find generally distasteful about the prospect of glorifying or making glamourous the basically sociopathic, violent nature of gang cultures.

So when I was invited to a screening of Legend, based on the lives of real-life twin brothers and London gangsters Reggie and Ron Kray, I figured what the heck, not because I’m super into gangsters, but because it appealed as an ambitious piece of creative and historical storytelling.

This was a good decision, on my part.

Tom Hardy stars as the two brothers at the centre of this story: Reggie, the charming businessman of the pair, and Ron, the loose cannon.

The film paints a wonderfully nuanced picture of the twins and their world, illuminating both the glitz of London’s nightclub scene, and its grim, festering underbelly. We follow the twins as their criminal business grows, their triumphs and setbacks, and the occasional political scandal or two.

Throughout it all, the centre of the story is the way in which these events shape and are shaped by the relationships in their lives: we watch the life cycle of Reggie’s relationship with a sweet young woman named Frances, and the brothers’ relationships to their business associates, and most notably, each other. We see the twins increase in power and influence, and then what happens when someone’s power is left largely unchecked, when one’s subordinates are too afraid (and justifiably so) to try to question their business decisions.

It’s fascinating to watch Hardy as the twins, whom he plays with such empathy, while never letting us forget that these two are really not nice people. We watch Reggie try to hold the business together in spite of his brother’s behavioural issues – though as gangsters, Ron’s unhealthy interest in violence sometimes works in their favour.

They are imbued with such dimension: Ron may not have the best sense of social cues and appropriate behaviour (if any, at times), he’s also capable of moments of tremendous lucidity, wit, and even kindness. Meanwhile, Reggie is by far the more rational of the pair, and yet is at times subject to terrible lapses in judgment, and commits acts of cruelty even more unspeakable than his brother. All the while, I find myself often either forgetting that Ron and Reggie are being played by the same dude with slightly different haircuts, and marvelling at what a good job he’s doing transforming himself into two near-identical but utterly distinct people.

Christopher Eccleston Legend

It doesn’t hurt that the movie also boasts a killer period soundtrack, an excellent supporting cast (Emily Browning is stunningly good, as are David Thewlis and Christopher Eccleston, to name a few) as well as delightful period visuals that perfectly punctuate both the delightful and the downright depressing sides of London in the 1960s.

Providing a fascinating glimpse into a very specific time and place, Legend is a dark, funny, and sad story of the rise and fall of two siblings and their inextricably linked destinies, their similarities and differences, and the confluence of circumstance and decisions that led them on their journey.


Released in UK cinemas on Wedneday 9 September 2015.

> Read more by Sami Kelsh on her website.

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