What could be better than Tom Hardy?
Why, two Tom Hardys, of course!
Yep this is the Hardy boys on an invisible split screen. Tom plays both Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Twins. Gangsters. Legends?
Well, yes. They are as instantly recognisable as icons of the 1960s as the Beatles and Twiggy. As director Brian Helgeland put it at a Q+A after a preview screening, ‘ I haven’t glamourised them. They WERE glamorous. They hung out with celebrities, were photographed by David Bailey and were famous. They were aware of their own legend as they were living it.’
It’s a fair point. The Krays did live it up. In the film Emily Browning who plays Frances Shea, wife of Reggie, is awed by seeing Joan Collins and Barbara Windsor at his club. ‘ Yeah,’ Reggie tells her, ‘ we like to mix it up in here’. Celebrities like Windsor still remember those heady days, suggesting the violent twins had a life that wasn’t entirely underground.
Helgeland is American and only first heard of the Krays in 1998 but he has produced a film that the most cockney of Londoners might have done. As the Oscar winning writer of LA confidential, he has got the rhythm of the East London dialogue down pat.
What will surprise and maybe annoy some audiences though is the humour he injects into the story. This is not a straight up gangster flick. It’s a laugh out loud comedy at times.
At first you think, is this a parody of the Krays? But if you just let yourself go with the flow of the film, it gradually takes you into the more expected darker territory.
Legend won’t be for everyone but it is a very entertaining take on the gangster film.
As for double Hardy, he’s excellent. Easily the best and most exciting youngish actor working today (along with Michael Fassbender), he carries off both roles really well. He supposedly got the deal because while the studio wanted him to play the charismatic, groomed Reggie, he was more interested in the psychopathic, schizophrenic, gay, overweight Ronnie.
The ‘compromise’ was he got to play both. As Reggie he is dangerously attractive. As Ronnie you can almost see Hardy letting loose and having a ball by being totally bonkers.
He’s getting flack from some critics for hamming it up, which he does do in some scenes, in fairness but he also gives Ronnie that quiet, perceptive wisdom that the mentally disturbed can sometimes display. There’s a lot going on behind the eyes for Ronnie. It’s a more subtle performance than some will give him credit for.
Legend is not what you might expect but it’s a very entertaining film that keeps you involved until the end.