I have been meaning to get round to watching Legend ever since it came out, and now I finally have, so naturally here’s a review. Brian Helgeland, the films director and writer, brings us a new piece of entertainment based around the Kray twins in the form of the 2015 film. While I cannot speak for the accuracy – being that I wasn’t alive when they were around (Ronnie died the year I was born, Reggie 5 years later) – I can speak for the pure charm and intricate beauty of the film. Many in the past have tried to represent the Krays in varying different ways, and many seemed to have failed, Helgeland however delivers perhaps the most enjoyable and honest attempt.
The Kray Twins, in the history of crime and the 60’s and in a broader sense, England are always fascinating to look into. They were, in a sense, ‘gangsters’ but they were gangsters feared as always, but also highly respected and in many cases adored. They were brothers and they were loyal, and while two different personas they were both imperfect dichotomies of each other. Hard and tough, and at the same time soft and tender in their true feelings. Legend, at its core, explores this most human nature of the brothers, mixing it in with utmost brutality, creating a series of events we understand, and at times feel sympathy for.
Firstly, let’s talk about perhaps the films biggest triumph: the casting.The choice of actors and actresses to portray almost every character in the film could not be more perfect, and the acting, on most occasions, is impressive. Tom Hardy, playing both Kray twins, secures himself yet again in my top 5 list of my favourite actors. While the costume and makeup department did a splendid job giving each twin a distinguishable item or feature, enough so it is easy to separate the two, Hardys characterisation could do the trick alone. It was always going to be a troubling feat to hire an actor to play both Kray twins, so Helgeland and his crew would have to pick an actor who, without make up could stand and portray two characters, and still show a significant difference. Tom Hardy does just that, and is believable as a charming, but secretly unstable Reggie, and an erratic and secretly wise Ronnie. Emily Browning, someone I only personally know from Sucker Punch and God Help The Girl (both fascinating films to discuss) surprised me. The Australian actress stuns in her role as Reggie’s strong and opinionated (but at times a little too patient) love interest. Her beautiful and interesting look lends itself naturally to the films setting in the 60’s and her particular style of portrayal is enough to secure herself as one of the most loved characters in the film. I don’t want to go through every actor in the film as that becomes a little confusing, but those two, as the central protagonists stand out in particular. This is not to downplay any other actors, for both the Kray twins accomplices, enemies, police counterparts and family members show that the film, at least from an acting perspective, is verging on faultless.
Moving on from the acting and onto the crux of the film: the directing and writing, both being done by Helgeland there are a great many things to be said. Again I won’t say them all because I feel quite a few elements belong to a mutual discussion, rather than through the subjective typings of this blogger. I will however say that on top of the casts stellar performances, comes writing and directing good enough to match such great acting. Structurally the film is wonderful, we understand early on what many of the characters seek and before long we see their need to discover it, and their eventual either success or more likely failure in such discovery. Two particular things I would like to point out are the brothers relationship, and also their relationship to Browning’s character Frances. Firstly their relationship with each other is one like many other siblings, rocky and troubled, but at the centre… full of love. They have a deep desire within them to continue loving each other, no matter what happens, and at the same time kill and constantly hurt each other. These contrasts, once again, fighting against each other in a losing battle, meaning neither can fully love the other, and neither, similarly, can fully kill the other. Their love is too strong, and their hate is too passionate. Now, onto their relationship with Frances. Frances is the sister of Frankie (Colin Morgan) a friend of the brothers, and quickly falls in love with Reggie. The pair have a relationship that competes against the great tale of Romeo and Juliet, through romantic beginnings, to disapproval and tumultuous moments. The relationship between Reggie and Frances is hard to connect to as an audience member because we are in love with them, while at the same time understanding that for more than one reason their relationship may fall apart. Ronnie also seems to see this, he admittedly thinks Frances is a “keeper” but at the same time alienates her on more than one occasion and does everything he can to break the relationship up. His supposed hate and disapproval, however, coming merely from a place of jealous and fright, jealousy that he may lose his brother, and fright that some bad may happen to the two.
Overall Legend provides us with an insight into the two main personalities of the twins, it shows us the greed and pure love they had for being gangster and for being so brutally violent while also showing just how much they loved each other and their family. Out of many adaptations and discussions before Legend seems to lend us something new to consider about The Krays, and while trying to represent their good side surely does not stray away from the bad. An impressive film on many counts.