Review: Legend

Extraordinary fear destroys ordinary lives in Legend

Daniel Dercksen reviews Legend

Crime lies in the eyes of the beholder in Legend, the heart-breaking true story of the rise and fall of London’s most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ronnie Kray from Oscar winner Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential,Mystic River).

It’s a controversial story that most people know but, if this is your first encounter with the devilish Krays, be prepared for a story proving that truth is stranger than fiction.

The enigmatic and iconic Kray brothers didn’t just rule the East End; they owned London.

Ruling over London in the middle of the Swinging Sixties and with Ronnie fresh out of prison, the brothers set about consolidating their power in the East End of London, taking on the ruthless South London gangster, Charlie Richardson and his gang, and working with the American Mafia, who are keen to move from Havana into London. Hailed as celebrities, the Krays are courted by the rich and famous, and their influence extends to the higher levels of the British Establishment. They were unstoppable.

While the Krays were imprisoned, a subculture grew around them, including dozens of books about their lives. One of the first, The Profession Of Violence, was written by John Pearson, a journalist who had first-hand experience with the Krays. Their lives were captured in several documentaries and in 1990 Peter Medak’s film  featured Spandau Ballet’s Gary and Martin Kemp as the twins.

LegendNow Tom Hardy delivers the feat of a lifetime playing both roles.

He succeeds admirably.

Effortlessly crawling under the skin of both brothers, he immerses himself heart and soul into their diverse personas, revealing the souls of monsters.

The sinister and creepy Ronnie has a twisted dark side that is destructive and when he loses it, his aggression is volatile and unsavory.

As Ronnie, Hardy perfectly captures a man who was openly Gay and ruled his gang of cocky lads, and a monster who instilled fear, even in his twin brother.

Hardy is suave and dynamic as the Capone-like Reggie, and allows us to understand his power trip but also the puppy-dog romantic that ruled his sensibility.

Without spoiling too much, there is a violent clash between the brothers in the film that says it all, capturing the physical power and emotional weakness of two men who desperately tried to dominate and love each other without destroying their undying bond of friendship and loyalty.

These two extreme opposites and layered nuances result in captivating viewing, a gentle portrait of a time when fear ruled the lives of many people and the men who advocated the rules.

Legend is not a gangster film or a film about violence, but an intense human drama told from a woman’s point of view.

Australian actress Emily Browning, who has established herself as one of the industry’s most versatile and exciting young talents and was great in the musical film God Help the Girl,  is superb as Reggie’s ill-fated wife, who tells the story of the Kray brothers.

It is interesting how both The Krays and Legend are told from a woman’s point of view:  The Krays is told from their mother’s viewpoint as she mourns the birth of her ‘two monsters’, and Legend is told from a young and vulnerable woman”s perspective, showing us how she was seduced into the world of these two monsters.

It is this view of an outsider in Legend that allows us access into an intimate world of male dominance, where brutality and swagger stripped them of their humanity.

Writer-director Brian Helgeland is no stranger to the underworld of crime and corruption in film and explored it strongly as a screenwriter in L.A Confidential, Man on Fire, Green Zone and Mystic River, and a writer and director of A Knight’s Tale and Payback.

He paints a vivid portrait of a world tainted by corruption and violence and allows the tragic characters who are imprisoned by glory to shine.

Legend is a film for discerning audiences or anyone looking for meaningful escapism.

As with many films based om true events and lives, try and see Legend without knowing too much about the story.

This is your chance to take a journey into the past that strongly informed our world today where gang warfare, corruption and violence is still as glamorous and prevalent as it was in the 60’when the Kray brothers ruled.

The names and faces might have changed, but it still tells the same tragic story that continues to destroy families and communities.

Legend is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, make sure to add it to your collection.

Copyright © 2015 Daniel Dercksen