“The only person who can upstage Tom Hardy, is Tom Hardy” -Anonymous
Legend was one of the first films I reviewed at TIFF 2015, and perhaps I was a little harsher on it than it deserved. With Tom Hardy playing the duel lead roles, the film already had buzz around it and enough star power to make it stand out from the pack. When I saw it I recognized that much of it was well done, but it wasn’t nearly as great as it aspired to be. I felt people’s festival time and money would be better spent on elsewhere, so I held no punches. After revisiting the film on Blu-ray I stand by that review (included below), but was able to see more of what makes the film worth your while now that it’s not competing with hundreds of other films from around the world. Legend is a perfectly passable genre flick that people will likely discover on home video platforms. It’s slick tabloid cinema with performances that are fun to watch, even if Hardy does go a little too far at times. There’s little room left for supporting players Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston and Taron Egerton to be seen past Hardy’s scene chewing, but they still have their moments, albeit brief ones.
Here’s my original TIFF review:
It’s easy to see what attracted Tom Hardy – currently one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities – to the dual roles in Legend. In the film he plays the Kray twins, two gangsters who notoriously controlled East London’s organized crime and club scene in the 1960s. Reginald Kray is suave and charming while Ronnie Kray is like a confused bull dog with a mean streak. Hardy gets to knock off two archetypal gangsters in a single film and clearly has fun doing so, but it mostly comes off as a vapid vanity project.
Anyone who has seen Locke knows that given the right material, Hardy can create a performance that goes far beyond what’s expected of most actors, but unfortunately the material just isn’t there this time around. Despite different hair, make-up and glasses, Hardy does a lot with his performance to emphasize the difference between the twins, but what he does with the mentally unstable Ronnie should have been reeled in a little to keep it from becoming almost vaudevillian.
When we meet the Krays they’re already successful at what they do and everyone knows it. This isn’t a ‘rise and fall’ narrative, it’s barely a narrative at all, more a series of unfortunate events. Director Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale) said the film would concentrate on Reggie’s attempts to control the psychopathic tendencies of his younger twin, which we really only see in a handful of scenes. Helgeland is clearly going for something along the lines of Scorsese’s Goodfellas, but it ends up feeling more like SNL’s Don’t You Go Runnin’ Roun to Re Ro.
As I mentioned, this is a slick film. There’s nothing lacking in the production department. The cinematography, costumes, make-up and era appropriate production design are all top notch and are displayed crisply in this HD transfer. Often you will begin to see the stitches when watching films with a lot of camera tricks and composition shots in 1080p, fortunately that’s not the case here as the technology has become virtually seamless.
There are only two special features included here, and they’re decent. The first is a generic 11 minute ‘making of’ doc called ‘Creating the Legend’ which includes interviews with all the major players. Writer/ director Brian Helgeland contributes a commentary that elaborates on many things touched on in the doc, such as what was based on fact, what they took liberties with, getting Hardy for the role, and ways in which Legend relates to the gangster genre, including previous film iterations of the Kray brothers. It does get a little dry at times and it would have been nice if Helgeland had some company from some other players, particularly Hardy.
Does this Deserve a Spot on your Dork Shelf?
This isn’t a ‘must own’ disc but it’s certainly a ‘should see’ movie if you’re a fan of Hardy or gangster pics. The extras on the disc give some interesting insight into the process, but I’m aware that I’m in the minority in caring about most of what’s addressed here. The effect of the same actor playing multiple roles is one we’ve seen countless times before, yet it’s still constantly being improved on by people working on projects like this and Orphan Black keeping the novelty going.