Legend Review

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By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

There’s that old saying that “blood Is thicker than water”. That we will stick by our family members no matter what. And we all have those family members who you tend to question whether that would be the case for you… should you be put into that situation. But immediate family and extended family are two different things. Director Brian Helgeland (42, A Knight’s Tale) brings such a story to the theaters with the true story of the Kray brothers, two businessmen / gangsters who ran East end of London in the 1960’s, in the film, Legend.

Reggie (Tom Hardy) and Ronald Kray (Tom Hardy) are two inseparable brothers. Ronald, just being released from a psych institution, is now under his brother’s care and getting back into the business. Reggie is a businessman, getting into the club owning industry, and they are both gangsters of the East end of London, and celebrities in their own right. They are followed regularly by the local police, who try to catch them in the act to build a case against the brothers, but have no leads. Reggie meets a young woman in Frances Shea (Emily Browning) and the two begin a courtship. But the life of being a husband, mixed with one of being a gangster, while looking after a brother who suffers with paranoid schizophrenia, take its toll. How will Reggie be able to hold it all together or will the stresses pulling him in all directions lead to the brother’s downfall?

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While Legend is about the Kray brothers and looks at their lives as gangsters, this film is really about family and relationships.  As was eluded to earlier, no family is perfect, yet we love our family members despite their flaws. For Reggie, he struggles with that balancing act of keeping his brother, who deals with a psychological diagnosis, in line and on his medications. At the same time, he realizes that his brother is, potentially, the one major thing that can bring everything he’s worked for tumbling to the ground. They live in a world of violence, and the easy way to deal with the problem would be to kill his own brother, but how do you kill a person who is your own blood even though you know it is for the best? Then there is the relationship with Frances, and trying to be a good significant other, and later a husband, while living the life he has created for himself. As humans, we play various roles, as husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, our job titles, friends, etc. To have harmony, we need to find that balance within our family and our relationships.

In order for this film to work out, these relationships to be tangible, there needs to be great acting. Hollywood directors choose carefully, so the fact that Helgeland chose Hardy to play the roles of both brothers, may be seen as a huge risk, especially considering the amount of times the characters are on screen together, interacting, fighting, etc. Obviously Helgeland knew something as Hardy absolutely nails both roles. He’s almost unrecognizable as Ronald Kray, from the way he carries himself physically to the way in which he speaks. He appears like an overly big tedy bear, except a teddy bear who will slit your throat and play soccer with your head. He’s almost completely different than the way in which he plays the role of Reggie. While Ronald deals with his paranoia and selection of vocabulary or way he deals with people, Reggie comes off with a charisma and alluring persona which makes you want to be near him, to want to be around him. Hardy makes each character a unique individual and, come Oscar season, should be recognized for his amazing performances. And while this film is prominently about the performances of Hardy, Emily Browning is nothing to scoff at, playing a young, confident woman, swept off her feet and brought into a world she wasn’t ready for, leading to her eventual suicide at the young age of 24.

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Legend is, first and foremost, a drama about life, family and relationships. It looks at the lives of two gangster brothers and shows a different side of that life that really isn’t focused on much in period “gangster” films. While there is action sequences, the sequences are more subdued and few and far between, depicting a more realistic way of life as far as the lives of these two men are probably concerned. However, without the right cast, this film could have been a dud. Tom Hardy brings probably his best performance, to date, to screen and this film flourishes with it. Life is complex and, to tell such a story on screen, requires a complex performance, and that’s what we have here, telling the story of the criminal celebrities, Reggie and Ronal Kray.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


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