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Legend revisits gangster history

Film

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With smooth direction by Brian Helgeland, Legend is a radiant crime thriller with the smarts to not take itself too seriously.

Despite claims of historical inaccuracies regarding the story of identical twin gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the film shows the spirit of London’s East End in the 1960s via a doomed love story, and actor Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the Krays is brilliant.

Any retelling of this story will inevitably tread a thin line between cliché, veracity, fact and folklore. Helgeland positions his tale cleverly by having it narrated by Reggie’s wife, Frances (Emily Browning).

As she reveals her story, audiences see the Krays’ rise to prominence, their sordid connections with the nobility and the Mafia, and the seedy, sleazy and amoral underworld where rival gangs fight for running clubs and protection rackets. But we also see affection, romance and lots of black humour among the violence, which culminates in the two murders that ultimately sent the Krays to prison.

Ronnie is a homicidal psychopath who is openly homosexual, while Reggie is more logical, focused and protective. Yet both are violent, tough and ruthless. Hardy captures both personalities, which seem like two halves of the same mind.

When Reggie meets the fragile Frances, his world changes and he becomes more rational. But he has a gang to run, and Frances can’t stop the carnage that accompanies the rise of the gangsters.  Naturally, everyone is ill-fated, with Detective Superintendent “Nipper” Read (Christopher Eccleston) determined to bring the twins to justice.

Even though Legend is only loosely based on the true story, Hardy brings enough drollness and intimidation to both parts to make it worthwhile viewing.

 

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