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.