Legend: The Krays Movie
Star rating: *****
Written and directed by: Brian Helgeland
Produced by: Working Title Films
On general release: 9th September 2015
How do you retell the story of the Kray’s in a way that is fresh and worthy of viewing when the legend of the East London gangsters is so well known and been immortalised in many a film?
Well Working Title Films have produced a vibrant, refreshing feature film about the notorious reign across London of the East London twins, Ronnie and Reggie Kray. It has been stunningly brought to life thanks to a number of vital elements, including the inspired casting of Tom Hardy as the actor playing both Ronnie and Reggie, the music, the mood captured, the era, old London and the various relationships portrayed – between the siblings, their relationships, their dealings with their family, their gang and their rivals.
Tom Hardy was superb as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. I suspect it’s hard enough playing one hard man, but to play both at the same time took some ‘cahones’. I wonder if he got double the salary for playing two roles?
Legend is a stirring, gripping movie that tracks the rise of these infamous East London gangsters. The movie tracks the beginnings of their violent reign and depicts the ways in which their legend was enhanced by their wars with another notorious gang, the Richardson’s of South London.
The brothers were involved in many violent attacks as well as the murders of fellow criminals George Cornell and Jack “The Hat” McVitie. The film is unsparing in its graphic depiction of these acts of violence and truly captured the aura of menace and danger surrounding the Kray’s. You certainly didn’t cross them if you valued your life.
It’s also a great psychological drama as we watch the relationship between the twins go through many highs and lows. As a study in psychopathic madness its great as you get to observe the worsening, paranoid, fragile psychological state of Ronnie. The impact of this on ‘the firm’ as that goes un-checked is quite marked and dramatic.
The tension and suspense is built up beautifully throughout in the lead up to some memorable scenes be that the relationships, meetings – civil and the distinctly uncivilised “meetings”. The goriness of the fight scenes is thrilling and feels wretchedly visceral, raw and real.
In amongst the fight scenes and the psychopathic drama we also have a romance in the form of Reggie Kray and Frances Shea (Australian actress Emily Browning), who does her level best to retain her sanity and that of Reggie as she is wooed and courted by him.
In a funny way there’s a general air of romanticism surrounding the whole film, relating to images of old London, a bygone era when the Kray’s and gangsters of their ilk ruled the city. The streets, bars, cars, policeman are all from another age, superbly captured on film, with a classy, realistic stylishness to it. Just watch the club scenes in particular. Yet at the same time it felt relatively modern at the same time. We’re only going back to the 1960’s after all, not the 1860’s!
As I mentioned earlier Tom Hardy was brilliant in the dual roles he played. None more so than a strange and seriously violent scene when he ends up fighting himself! How they filmed that I do not know. I’ve played chess with myself, so I know competing against yourself is doable, but fighting yourself, that’s a tricky proposition! He also looked markedly different as Ronnie and Reggie, yet there was enough believability about them to see them as brothers. What’s so great is that if you didn’t know they were the same actor, you’d swear they were two different people.
There are some things that don’t make a lot of sense though, such as the scene early on where Reggie is attacked yet gets up and dusts himself down as if nothing much had really happened. It ad of course and that and a serious of other events seriously upped the ante in the stormy gang war between the Kray’s and the Richardson’s.
It’s interesting that none of the Kray’s, including Charlie (who doesn’t feature much in the film) had children and therefore the Kray name and brand appears to have died out.
Legend is a great film. It had a bit of everything. Great London locations, evokations of the 1960’s and its smoke filled clubs plus the old fashioned spit and sawdust pubs. There was superb acting, romance, gang and sibling rivalry, plus not a little humour too. There was the almost cartoon like but all too realistic looking violence in huge gangland battles and of course let’s not forget that it is ultimately a thrilling, infamous crime story. The guys created an aura and legend around themselves. That legend and reputation is firmly and solidly upheld in this fantastic movie. I suspect the Kray’s would have been proud of this depiction of their lives.
Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town