Legend tells the story of infamous gangster duo, the Kray twins, who ran a brutal crime empire in East London in the 1960s. It was adapted from John Pearson’s 1995 book ‘The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins’ by director Brian Helgeland.
Despite outlining the Krays’ violent moments such as bar fights, shootings, stabbings and domestic abuse in plentyful detail, the film may not be all you expect. For one thing, there is a lot of humour and sarcasm. The odd bit of cockney wit does break up the violence somewhat.
But the biopic goes into a lot more detail, portraying Reggie and Ronnie’s relationships; their mother Violet, their business associates and circle of friends and family. In particular, Reggie’s troubled marriage to Frances Shea, the younger sister of his driver Frankie. The film is narrated by the voice of Australian actress Emily Browning, who plays Frances. This gives the biopic a more personal insight into the lives of the two men rather than just looking at their criminal record.
There is also a lot of focus on the personal life of Ronnie Kray who is clinically insane and dependent on stabilising medication. Also his unashamed homosexuality despite living in a time when social acceptance of being gay wasn’t what it is today. Legend also details his sexual relationship with Conservative peer Lord Boothby, which the government went to great lengths to cover up.
Legend is successful as a period film. It seems to portray 1960s East-end London with precision- from the suits and dresses to the cars and the blocks of flats built in the 60s that still dominate much of the East End skyline.
Impressive roles from actors such as Christopher Eccleston, Paul Anderson and Colin Morgan are almost equally as important as the central characters of Reggie and Ronnie Kray- both played by Tom Hardy. But that doesn’t detract from Hardy’s performance at all. He executes the portrayal of each of these very similar yet very different twins brilliantly. His portrayal of Ronnie Kray is a little on the cartoonish side but not so much that it makes the character unbelievable. It just makes the film all the more entertaining.