Take a Drink: whenever Ronnie tells someone he’s gay
Take a Drink: whenever Reggie makes promises he won’t keep
Take a Drink: for burst of violence
Take a Drink: for every time Frances fails to gtfo
Do a Shot: whenever Ronnie does something bugfuck crazy
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
Tom Hardy has quietly had one utterly spectacular year. He started out headlining the film that has justly dominated the critical conversation for the best of the year- Mad Max: Fury Road, put in interesting work in the musical curiosity London Road, was the best part of a terrible film in Child 44, then came roaring back with perhaps his best turn, ever, in The Revenant. Sandwiched in there, he had time to play not one, but two leads in Legend.
A Being John Malkovich sequel cannot be far away
Legend tells the story of the criminal Krays, twin brothers who came to dominate the London underground in the 1960s through a mix of cruelty, insanity, and sharp suits. This film is told from the perspective of Frances Shea (Emily Browning), amour of the ostensibly saner of the two, Reggie, and tracks the rise and fall of both their romance and the Kray’s empire.
This is Tom Hardy’s movie, and his dual performances are reason enough alone to give it a shot. The way he differentiates the twin brothers with mannerisms large and small, then slowly starts to clue you in that they may not be so different after all is brilliant. His Ronnie steals the show as the deadpan, certifiably insane, perpetually curled-lipped, and matter-of-factly homosexual wildcard of the film, whose unpredictability proves the source of both the comedy and the horror of it. Reggie is purportedly the straight man, the brains of the operation, the more “normal” of the two, but it soon becomes clear that his charm and good looks are just exterior shading for a soul that may be even blacker than his brother’s.
Visually, the film is a splendid recreation of both the party-happy 60s milieu and the down-and-dirty part of London the brothers came out of. Director Brian Helgeland does a great job shooting the flashes of the ‘ol ultraviolence that pervade the film, none better than the scene when the brothers themselves throw down in spectacular fashion. Hardy v. Hardy is a matchup you don’t want to miss.
Goddamn, it’s glorious.
Unfortunately, Helgeland doesn’t appear to have many more ideas than “Goodfellas, but in London, and also Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci are twins”. There’s even a damn single-shot club entrance scene that serves precisely the same dramatic purpose as in Scorcese’s far, far superior film. This far from the only parallel, either, which makes you wonder why Helgeland didn’t think to copy the rest of the damn movie and deliver a film with some dramatic urgency and forward motion. Instead, the script is meandering, overlong, and strangely dramatically inert. There’s no real arcs- just criminals being criminals.
This is a much smaller complaint, but wow, the accents are impossible to parse. Hardy often sounds like Bane with a mouthful of marbles, and the majority of his counterparts are somehow worse. If you’re going to use a regional dialect that’s essentially what remains of the English language after generations of liquor babies and severe head trauma, just go all the way and add subtitles.
It’s time to recognize that the nonsense you babble is no longer a language.
Why is Emily Browning’s Frances narrating this? In what world does the obligatory movie romance qualify as the most interesting way into this material? And wait, she’s narrating it from… where? Dammit, Helgeland, even Lifetime wouldn’t have the chutzpah to attempt to pull that one off…
Watch Legend to see Tom Hardy do his thing at twice the speed, but don’t expect a whole lot more from this overcooked gangster tale.