Legend is kind of a strange one but perhaps strange in a refreshing way. In today's movie landscape, theaters are chock full of gangster movies that are gritty, dark and violent. Legend is certainly a violent film, but it is neither gritty nor dark. In fact, the tone of the film is much more happy-go-lucky and comedic than I originally expected. In some ways that works, but in others it makes the subject matter fall flat.
Tom Hardy plays twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, notorious criminals who led an organized crime empire in London during the 1960s. With East London as their home base, the two brothers are fiercely loyal to their home and each other. Reggie is the brains and eventually marries Frances Shea (Emily Browning) while Ronnie is the brawn and is understood to be mentally unstable. Interestingly, Frances, Reggie's wife, is the narrator although the film is clearly about the twins more than anyone else.
Much of their gangster behavior and relationship is played for laughs. Reggie is good looking and debonair, clearly loving his family and home but longing to fit in with the more posh side of London's social circles. Meanwhile Ronnie just loves being a gangster, getting into fights, and beating people up "“ something that is regularly played for laughs. His straightforward and honest attitude about his love of violence and homosexuality are refreshing to say the least. Hardy does a fantastic job in both roles, and it's incredibly easy to forget that one man is playing Reggie and Ronnie. Save for a strangely bad CGI moment where they take a group photo, the scenes with both brothers are stitched so flawlessly together I was reminded of the great effects on Orphan Black.
Legend, of course, has to touch on the darker sides of being a gangster. Murder, suicide, and loss are all present. However, they never really seem to have an emotional punch attached to them since the rest of the film's violence is treated so flippantly. The Kray brothers quickly become characters you root for, a strange turn of events as they truly did horrible things that seem almost glorified on screen. Still, Tom Hardy really saves the film by turning in two fantastic performances. He is clearly the star and centerpiece of Legend, easily embodying both men by changing his physical appearance and mannerisms. While I doubt this film will ever be considered a gangster film essential, it's an entertaining watch that Hardy carries as best he can.