LEGEND (Brian Helgeland). 131 minutes. Opens Friday (December 4). See listings. Rating: NNNWin a copy of Legend on Blu-ray™ here.
Legend is an entirely serviceable gangster picture with one absolutely remarkable feature, and that is Tom Hardy.
Brian Helgeland’s sprawling biopic about co-dependent twin crime lords Reggie and Ronnie Kray – who nearly conquered Swinging London’s underworld in the age of gentlemen gangsters – casts the Mad Max star as both brothers.
Legend accomplishes the trick through digital and practical means, much as The Social Network allowed Armie Hammer to play the dickish Winklevoss twins. After about 10 minutes, you just stop thinking about it and admire the performance(s).
Hardy has a fun with the roles, playing the quick-witted Reggie as a confident charmer and the unstable Ronnie as thicker and more hesitant, but no less dangerous.
Helgeland’s screenplay follows a pretty standard rise-and-fall narrative, forgoing the artful flourishes of Peter Medak’s 1990 dramatization, The Krays (in which actual twins Martin and Gary Kemp played the brothers), and downplaying the role of the twins’ mother, Violet.
The storytelling is somewhat mechanical, and Helgeland fails to make much use of a supporting cast that includes Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston and David Thewlis. But whenever either Hardy is on screen, it’s gripping stuff.