By Jamie Rogers
I was pretty excited for Legend. Despite not seeing many of his non-mainstream films, I’m a pretty big fan of Tom Hardy. He’s a great actor and he doesn’t disappoint here. Neither does the direction, the set design, the soundtrack, and many other things. Shame about the way the story is told, though.
It’s not like it’s a bad story or anything. If it was a bad story then the Kray’s wouldn’t be famous and this movie wouldn’t have been made. The problem arises in that it seems screenwriter Brian Helgeland decided the story on its own was interesting enough and that all he had to do was put it into a format that would fit a film. This is the same problem the movie Pain & Gain ran into. Just because something is a true story doesn’t make it automatically interesting to the viewer. The writer has to draw the viewers interest the same as any other movie would have to do. The writer needs to connect the viewers to the films characters and make them care about what happens in the film. Helgeland does none of this, which came to me as a surprise, as he has a few acclaimed films under his screenwriting belt, including L.A. Confidential and Mystic River.
That all being said, there’s still a lot to like about this movie. What Helgeland does get right is humor, which I’m not sure was the best choice to put in a film about two famous gangsters, but nevertheless, it works. He also does a great job directing the film, capturing the 50s and 60s well, skimming his subpar script along at a nice pace (save for the last, boring half hour), and bringing out great performances in his cast. Speaking of said cast, let’s talk more about them.
Now, obviously all the buzz around this movie is about Tom Hardy’s dual role of both Reggie and Ronnie Kray, and justifiably so. His performance is quite memorable, but more so for the former Kray than the latter. See, Hardy’s performance as Reggie is fine, but Reggie is such a boring character. He’s a one dimensional gangster type and he’s only there to play straight man for Ronnie Kray, who is the real highlight of the movie. Hardy is fantastic as Ronnie. Not only does he make himself look different without any major changes, his delivery is fantastic and he clearly cares about the role. He’s hilarious, threatening, and even a bit of a softie. It feels a bit wrong to be laughing at a mentally ill man, but the rest of the audience didn’t seem to mind, so oh well.
As for the rest of the cast, they’re very good too. Emily Browning’s character inexplicably narrates the film, but she’s good in it never the less, and has come far from being in the mess that was and still is, Sucker Punch. David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, and Christopher Eccleston all do their best with what their given as well, even if what they’re given isn’t very much. Taron Egerton is a delight to watch as well. In his first role since his breakout in Kingsman: The Secret Service, he doesn’t have a large amount of importance in the film, but he was an absolute joy in each scene he was in, and brought an infectious enthusiasm to each scene he was in. That’s odd praise for a gangster film.
Overall, Legend is not a bad movie. It’s quite a good movie that has some very exciting scenes, some great performances, inspired direction and some good humor. What it doesn’t have is the content to keep you interested for it’s entire runtime, and also, not the most suitable tone for the movie it should’ve been. It’s not the film everyone hoped it would be, but it’s still worth a watch.