Sunday, February 28, 2016

Video review: "Legend"

“Legend” is a solid gangster picture and a showcase for the versatile Tom Hardy, who played both halves of the infamous Kray sibling duo, who ruled London’s criminal underside in their 1960s heyday.

Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, based on a book by John Pearson, it tries a little too obviously to be the “British ‘Goodfellas’” -- but if that’s the worst thing you can say about a movie, that isn’t too shabby.

The challenge for Hardy is playing two men who outwardly are very similar but personality-wise are quite different. Reggie Kray was smooth, dapper, an ex-boxer and consummate ladies’ man who liked to run swank nightclubs and hobnob with celebrities. Ronnie was a sociopath -- he’d been committed to psychiatric hospital -- belligerent and bisexual. He was devoted to Reggie but resented the way people were drawn to him, so Ronnie repelled others as a way to compensate.

Even the way the twins talk diverges in Hardy’s interpretation. Ronnie sounds as if he has a mouthful of marbles, through which his harsh cockney accent bleats and spits.

(Hardy, while a monumentally gifted actor, seems to have a contemptuous disregard for comprehensibility. You’ll want to watch this one with the subtitles on.)

Emily Browning plays Frances, who gets courted and wed by Reggie, which she soon comes to regret as they are separated by his partying and prison stints. She narrates the film, performing much the same role as the William Holden character in “Sunset Boulevard.”

Also turning up are Paul Bettany as a rival mobster; David Thewlis as the Krays’ right-hand man; Christopher Eccleston as the London Yard detective on the case; Chazz Palminteri as an American mafia figure offering a business relationship, and danger; and Taron Egerton as Ronnie’s volatile boy toy.

It’s a wonderful-looking film, full of mod clothes and cars and tunes. It really does emulate the style of “Goodfellas,” with breezy scenes intermixed with bursts of horrific violence. These movies are not just trying to depict gangsters as interesting figures, but sex them up into iconic anti-heroes.

Extra features including a feature-length commentary track by Helgeland and a making-of documentary, “Creating the Legend.”



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