Dual performances in Hollywood are nothing new. Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. Gary Oldman as the many faces of Dracula. Eddie Murphy in Meet The Klumps. With Legend, we're seeing yet another entry added to this trope as Tom Hardy plays both Ronald and Reginald Kray, the twin gangsters of '60s London.
he Krays' reign of terror has already been captured on-screen in the early '90s, when Gary and Martin Kemp, together with veteran actress Billie Whitelaw, portrayed the Kray clan in an affecting and underrated film. However, Brian Helgeland's take focuses more on Reggie Kray and his attempt to control the psychotic tendencies of his brother, Ronald. The film begins with the Krays already established as hoods in London and charts their rise to the top of the pile in London. Along the way, Reggie becomes enamoured with Frances Shea, played with a convincing East End accent by Emily Browning. Through a series of whizzing series of vignettes and loudly-soundtracked setpieces, we see the relationship between Ronald and Reginald grow stronger and then, as one would expect, deteriorate fully.
om Hardy is known for giving larger-than-life performances, acting with his full body and voice to beat out anyone on the screen next to him - and this is very much Tom Hardy's film, occupying the screen for at least 80% of the time. That's not ego, as such. His performance as the slick, dapper Reggie is in perfect contrast to Ronald, a near-gibbering sadistic psychopath who enjoys the freedom of being a gangster and living outside the bounds of the law and society. The crux of the film lies with Reggie attempting to legitimise his criminal enterprise, but very often finds his plans at cross purposes with Ronald's proclivity for mayhem - and that's basically it. Sure, there are pieces here and there about the warfare between the smaller gangs in London, their sensational brushes with the law, but that about the size of it.
elgeland's directing is big and splashy and fits with the larger-than-life personalities that Hardy is occupying. His dialogue has an air of authenticity to it and there are moments of black comedy to be had throughout, especially one seen involving Reggie's disappointment with a rival gang for failing to bring guns to a gunfight, the result being Reggie pummels them with two hammers whilst Ronnie dispatches them with knuckle-dusters. Such is the slickness of Helgeland's work that it almost feels too choreographed and formulaic. You can see the twists and turns in the story coming from a mile away, but the energy with which the story moves is enough to keep you interested for its considerable running length.
verall, Legend is a decent crime saga with a strong central performance by Hardy. While it's not an in-depth analysis of the Krays and their exploits, it still holds a grim fascination and is shiny enough to keep you in the seat.