LEGEND (2015) Review
WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS.
LEGEND, starring Tom Hardy and, you guessed it from that silly trailer, Tom Hardy as the notorious Kray twins received its debut today in cinemas nationwide. We, a few friends and I, chose an evening showing and in all honesty I cannot make my mind up about it.
Prior to seeing Brian Helgeland’s all-star epic I purchased a copy of John Pearson’s The Profession of Violence and was utterly enthralled by the read that detailed small nitty gritty stories about the twins in addition to eloping on the more well known facts of their decade long rule over the London underworld. In this book I was introduced to stories that have facilitated and solidified the Kray legend. However less publicised incidents in their rise to power were skipped over in the film; the bayonet through a man’s hand, Ronnie Kray charging across Mile End with a rapier, a man’s face being sliced into pieces in the bathroom of the Astor Club for implying that the madder of the delightful duo had put on some weight. Granted, no director can cram every minute detail into a two hour long featurette, but when the title of the film itself stemmed on this LEGEND, I was left leaving the cinema wondering what the legend actually consisted of? Surely concrete facts doesn’t create a legend or even a cult of majesty, so to speak, that surrounds the twins to this day?
Anyhow, on my way home I shrugged it off and thought of the film’s positives; the characterisation of Francis, the diversity between the portrayals of Tom Hardy’s lead and supporting roles, the writing and Scorsese-esque camera angles and shots. These things in my mind stood out as the makings of a BAFTA winning piece of filmmaking that has reinvented the British gangster genre of film. Yet again, I was also torn up over the presentation of the film, as if in two parts the first focussed on Reggie’s courtship of Francis Shea and the growth of their empire into the West London territories. The latter part saw the collapse and disillusionment of the firm, the murders of George Cornell and Jack McVitie as well as the heart dropping rape and suicide of sweet Francis. The rape in particular conjured more of a personal response from the audience rather than bursts of laughter at Ronnie swearing in church and hissing for not having a “shoot-out” with the Richardsons.
Although, in any film I despise rape and think that it is far too graphic for an eighteen rating, it served to instil hatred within the viewer and brought home that this is a true story and that men like Ronald and Reginald Krays were “murdering, evil… bastards” and are the antithesis of their label: Gentleman Gangsters.
On the other hand although their portrayals seemed fitting, the setting felt real for the most part and the big cast members all contributed their own side to the story of downfall, I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good biopic or a decent plot with twists and turns or even someone who enjoys a bit of action, LEGEND offers it all with a bitter taste. Like Marmite I’d say, you either love it or you hate it, I’ve only had the one slice of toast and am considering having another slice before casting a judgement and deciding on whether I love it or hate it like the Vegetarian suitable syrup paste or whatever it is.
On a personal level, READ THE BLOODY BOOK FIRST, not Our Story by Fred Dineage which has been censored like a Resistance pamphlet in Nazi-occupied Germany, but John Pearson’s account; which, in fact, was the second most popular book at one juncture in British prisons after the Bible, proves the most readable. It’s rich in narrative, appropriate in its research and is more violent and quicker paced than the film was; which is surprising bearing in mind Helgeland adopted the Demon Dog of Crime James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential for screen and earned a bundle of Academy awards and Golden Globe nominations with material like that.
**** / *****