The film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.
There are two good reasons to make what might otherwise seems an inessential new biopic of Ronnie and Reggie Kray - and both of them, as it happens, take the formidable form of Tom Hardy. In fact, as a performance showcase Legend is sensational; Hardy is astonishing. To this dual role, Tom Hardy brings physical, intellectual and emotional commitment. His inspired twin turn elevates and complicates the otherwise straightforward terrain of the film. In my opinion, these roles are prestigious awards vehicle. His Reggie is suave: a charismatically volatile antihero calculated to inspire perverse admiration among younger male and his playfully eccentric inhabitation of the gay, mentally unstable Ronnie would, on its own, balanced the extravagance of the era.
Moreover, it's an unexpected way into the film's story, narrated by Frances (Reggie's love interest and future wife) starring Emily Browning, her point of view takes on an unconvincing omniscience, in assuming equal narrative authority on their domestic and professional lives. The formerly institutionalised Ronnie is the film's most fascinating, conflicted figure and the one whose interior life most eludes Frances narration. His romantic relationship with young lackey Teddy Smith - a poignant, under used Taron Egerton - is played in tender fashion.
However, the film is less satisfying on deep psychological profile: for all Hardy's expressive detail and physical creativity; incident-packed script offers little insight into what made either of these contrasting psychopaths tick, or finally explode. Director Brian Helgeland has fashioned the Kray's rearing of London's underworld from Whitechapel to Soho perfectly. But by doing so, turning the period into a playground it softens the horror of what really happened and the tyranny of the Krays becomes diminished.
Overall, this film takes on a fascinating period of time and leaves us sorely uninformed, as if we've skim-read a pamphlet. There's not enough within Legend to elevate it from other British crime films.