Legend (Cert 18)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston, Paul Anderson, David Thewlis, Tara Fitzgerald, Paul Bettany.
On the mean streets of London, Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) and identical twin Ronnie (Hardy again) continue a brutal turf war with Charlie Richardson (Paul Bettany) and remain one step ahead of Detective Superintendent Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read (Christopher Eccleston).
Reggie embarks on a giddy romance with 16-year-old Frances Shea (Emily Browning), sister of his driver Frankie (Colin Morgan), despite vociferous protests from her mother (Tara Fitzgerald). The relationship coincides with Ronnie’s turbulent affair with Edward Smith (Taron Egerton).
Sibling rivalry intensifies and Reggie struggles to contain his brother’s sadistic impulses and keep Frances on an even keel.
Based on the book The Profession Of Violence by John Pearson, Legend is a brutal portrait of the notorious gangsters, which captures the fashions and sounds of Fifties and Sixties London with aplomb. However, the abrupt shifts in pace and tone are deeply discomfiting.
The running time drags in places but it’s hard to tear your eyes from the screen, even when Brian Helgeland’s film seems to be careening wildly out of control.
The neat gimmick of casting the same actor in dual roles proves an almighty distraction.
Using the visual shorthand of a pair of spectacles to distinguish between the two Krays, Hardy plays Ronnie as a blackly humorous psychopath, who seems to be one giggle shy of Jack Nicholson’s Joker.
Reggie, as a dutiful son, always puts family ties ahead of personal desires. “My loyalty to my brother is how I measure myself,” he confides. Helgeland’s period drama is torn between these two very different faces of the same blood-spattered coin.