The Treacherous Twins

Legend

legend

Director: Brian Helgeland

Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton, Chazz Palminteri, Tara Fitzgerald, Sam Spruell, Christopher Eccleston, Nicholas Farrell, Colin Morgan, Paul Bettany

Tom Hardy delivers a suitably menacing performance playing both the Kray Twins, Ronald and Reggie Kray, the 1960’s gangsters who ruled London nightlife and definitely had links to American organized crime in the violent biopic Legend.

Screenwriter turned director Brian Helgeland (Payback) brings to life the true life account of the Krays based upon the book The Profession of Violence written by John Pearson in Legend and in a stroke of genius has British actor Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, The Drop, Warrior, Mad Max: Fury Road) play both twins, distinguishable only by Ronnie’s thickset glasses, with an equal amount of menace, mayhem and murder.

Hardy’s performance is captivating especially in his portrayal of Ronald Kray who was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, psychopathic gangster with homosexual proclivities. Ronnie liked to organize orgies at his East End flat involving rent boys and prominent British Lords, which naturally led to several political scandals.

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Reggie, on the other hand, initially appears to be the sensible twin, as he courts and marries an East End girl, Frances Shea, wonderfully played by Emily Browning. Reggie will never abandon Ronnie despite his often despicable and unpredictable behaviour which often exploded into bouts of extreme violence in public places, namely the nightclubs and bars that the twins owned.

As The Krays rise in notoriety becomes more noticeable they move from London’s East End to the casinos and nightclubs of the swankier West End, particularly the glamourous Esmeralda’s Barn in Knightsbridge.

In their attempt to attract credibility within upper class British society, their nightclubs soon had politicians rubbing shoulders with film stars such as Joan Collins along with gangsters.

Underneath the veneer of glamour is a more sinister propensity for unrestrained violence, which director Helgeland captures beautifully in the films best scene when Ronnie and Reggie fight each other like brothers, who are bound by blood and loyalty, without matching temperaments. This particular scene is so captivating specifically because it occurs in front of their gang as well as Reggie’s wife Frances, made even more compelling because it is played by one actor making it Hardy’s undisputed Oscar worthy moment.

At times, Legend appears as a parody of the gangster genre, so effectively done by Scorsese in Goodfellas, but in other ways the film is a peculiar love triangle between Frances Shea and the conflicted Reggie Kray which she has to share with his psychotic twin brother, Ronnie.

Best line in the film is when The Kray twins meet the American mob’s representative Angelo Bruno played by Chazz Palminteri who inquires after Ronnie’s sexual preference and Ronnie casually replies:

“I prefer boys, Italians. Sometimes Greeks. I am not prejudiced.”

Legend is a sleazy version of the rise of gangsters in the swinging sixties, and is more a biopic about the treacherous twins that ruled the London underworld until their power engulfed them in a dazzling yet brutal fall from grace. Audiences should look out for superb cameos by Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Shea who is completely opposed to her daughter marrying a gangster. She even wears black to the wedding.

Rising star Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) is cast as the gorgeous Mad Teddy Smith who is Ronnie’s casual boyfriend, although the sexuality is hinted at instead of explicitly portrayed. Christopher Eccleston plays the hapless cop Nipper Read who is both obsessed and entranced by the Krays rise to power.

Legend is highly recommended viewing for those that love factual gangster films such as Goodfellas, Bugsy and Public Enemies, yet has a more British scallywag twist assisted by a phenomenal career best performance by Tom Hardy. This is dazzling, daunting cinema at its best.

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