Film Review: Legend

The Twin Dilemma

When looking at lists of the greatest movies ever made, films like The Godfather, The Godfather: Part Two, and Goodfellas always seem to be strongly cemented into such, with Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful crime epics particularly usually chopping and changing between who rules the cinematic world (The first one is the best one IMO). What links these movie masterpieces together? Gangsters. Lots of gangsters, a topic so undeniably infamous that it is no surprise some of the greatest films ever deal with mass murdering, foul mouthed, psychopaths for the sake of the gracious cinematic audience who seem to swoon at the sight of sharp suits and even sharper tongues. Whereas the syndicate of crime families in the US has been well and truly examined through such films like Goodfellas etc, the UK crime scene tends to be wholly seen as an afterthought in the terms of crime movies on the level of The Godfather etc. My own favourite UK gangster movie? Well, I undeniably have a huge soft spot for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ dark comic humour and twisty plot, but Gangster No.1 also stands out as a solid cornerstone of UK crime films, and it is here where Brian Helgeland’s new crime biopic Legend seemingly takes solid ground from.

Following in the footsteps of actors such as Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers (Ha.) is Tom Hardy as the Kray Twins, the infamous crime-infused brothers who rise and fall in the 1960’s East-End has already been examined through a wide range of documentaries and fiction, no more so than in ITV’s Whitechapel which for me, was my introduction into the criminal enterprise of one of, if not, the, most notorious English gangsters ever. With Hardy already portraying one of the most notorious jailbirds in the form of Charles Bronson in the magnificent Bronson, Hardy’s famous motif for portraying characters of a more physical demeanor suits the role of Ronnie and Reggie to a T, with the differences between the two being strongly played upon by Hardy’s natural born talent whilst scenes in which we witness each brother lose their cool and unleash their violent streak undeniably terrifying, presenting the fear and hostility of the Krays’ criminal reign in the 1960’s. Where the film ultimately fails however is the criss-crossing between the fearfulness of the Krays’ and the emotional core between their relationships with each other and other external factors, resulting in a division of views from the filmmakers in whether sympathy or hate is the main response towards the actions of these notorious criminals.

Of these external factors is Emily Browning as Frances Shea who presents herself as the viewpoint of the audience by having a front-row seat into the world of guns and geezers that Reggie places upon her, much to her distaste, and although the film bases itself on the notoriety of the Krays, it almost feels as if Browning takes the lead with her own rise and fall at the hand of both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. Whilst more of Browning would have been more than sufficient due to her humanity and role as a walking conduit into the Krays’ livelihood, at least her screen presences is more than that of Christopher Ecclestone’s Leonard Nipper, whose presence as the hell-bent police detective seems overly shoe-horned in in order to examine they way in which there was an overly bad side to the workings of they Krays. Aside from Ecclestone, both Thewlis and Bettany both have roles that subside themselves with being utterly pointless on the face of it in terms of their pedigree as actors, with the only reason I can think of of their inclusion is their involvement in Gangster No.1, a film that although Legend takes a lot of solid ground from, ultimately doesn’t scratch the surface of in terms of quality and culty appeal. Legend does indeed deal with the violence and terror of the Krays in the 1960’s but it does it in a by-the-numbers approach with outbursts of quality which presents remorse at a version of a film which could have been much much more.

Overall Score:7/10

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Posted on 10/09/2015, in Film & TV, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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