Legend delivers exactly what it promises: a glitzy gangster flick starring Tom Hardy opposite Tom Hardy (doppelgangland!). Director Brian Helgeland lays everything on with a trowel, but subtlety isn’t why we’re here. The flash, the violence, and Tom Hardy’s twin performances make Legend a fun ride.
Tom Hardy plays both of the Kray twins, the gangster brothers who ran London’s East End in the 1960s: shrewd, ambitious Reggie and violent schizophrenic Ron. Reggie romances local girl Frances (Emily Browning), whose narration structures the film. Frances wants Reggie to go straight; Reggie wants to rule London’s underworld; and Ron just wants the twins to take the world in their fists and squeeze. These competing dreams haunt the Krays’ rise and subsequent downfall.
Hardy delivers a smooth performance as Reggie and clearly revels in the role of ultra-violent Ron. After an electric first scene, though, Roberts is given little to do except look sad in close-ups and provide superfluous voice-over. It’s a shame, because Roberts’ chemistry with Hardy is palpable, and Frances’ fate is what catapults Reggie beyond the moral event horizon.
Legend never shows what it can tell (how many classical history references are shoehorned into this movie?) and the characters’ ends feel preordained. But the film’s lavish costumes and production design conjure up a glamorous fantasy of 1960s London where the underworld rubbed shoulders with the upper crust. There’s not much below the surface, but what a surface it is.
‘Legend’ screens Sat. Sept. 19 at 9:15PM at the Princess of Wales Theatre. For tickets and details, visit the TIFF website here.