Legend review – The rumours are better

Misleadingly titled, Legend gives a clumsy account of the Kray twins’ legacy that divulges less about them than that bloke you once met in an East End pub

“London in the 1960s, everyone had a story about the Krays,” but unfortunately for us we’re going to be told one by an unenthusiastic Frances Shea (Emily Browning). She’s Reggie’s love interest and the film’s omnipresent narrator that chugs the biopic along with all the conviction of a flat can of Coke. For some reason she’s been made omniscient too, detailing events that she couldn’t possibly have been aware of, just like every East Ender that has ever made up a tale about the infamous twins. My Nan’s friend’s dog knew them – sort of thing.

I think I would have preferred a film starring dozens of bullshitting cockneys, staring into the lens and saying things like “I saw Ronnie Kray throw a kettle over a pub once.” What we’re given instead is a very clumsy account of their legacy that can’t decide if it wants to be a gangster epic, a romance or a comedy. We subsequently don’t get to learn much at all about the Krays and how their fierce reputation grew, making the title ‘Legend’ somewhat redundant.

But in contradictory fashion, Legend doesn’t set out to be an origin story. By the time we join them, the twins are already at the height of their power. What we see is a muddled interpretation of how their empire fell, based on the book ‘The Profession of Violence’. There’s a lot of tea drinking too.

Fans of Tom Hardy and Bargain Hunt will be pleased, though; the actor gives a two-for-one performance, playing both Reggie and Ronnie with the help of some cutting-edge camera trickery. He’s the gem that shines in this murky London, filled with instantly forgettable supporting actors. Christopher Ecclestone plays the cop chasing them, I think. It might have been David Tennant.

Expectedly, Ronnie steals the show. He’s a ‘one-man mob’, borderline schizophrenic and homosexual that openly admits that he bent one of his lovers like a pretzel and ‘really fucking hurt him’. He’s the comic relief to his own terrifying behaviour, talking like a brain-damaged Bane. The novelty does eventually wear off however, as Reggie repeatedly clears up his brother’s mess and, in the process, lands himself in some Barney Rubble of his own.

The lack of a definitive plot almost makes it play like a compilation of the best Kray rumours, which would have been brilliant if it was deliberate. But this is bundled together without any real finesse, hoping that its star man and glossy aesthetics will distract everyone long enough so that director Brian Helgeland can quickly sneak off to the Queen Vic and listen to some better-told stories about the Krays.

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