Written and directed by Brian Helgeland (based on John Pearson's The Profession Of Violence), Legend tells the story of twin brothers Ron and Reggie Kray (both played in this picture by Tom Hardy). It's a story that's been told before on film and in other arenas, but the concept of having Hardy play both parts makes this most recent effort an interesting idea (in 1990's The Krays, for example, the characters were played by brothers Martin and Gary Kemp but not by the same actor).
For those unfamiliar with the story, the Kray's were, as stated, twin brothers who rose to infamy as gangsters in London's east end during the 1960's. When the movie begins, Reggie gets Ron out of the mental hospital and shortly thereafter falls for Frances Shea (Emily Browning), the pretty sister of his driver Frank Shea (Colin Morgan). As their romance begins, it's obvious to the audience that Frankie figures she can turn Reggie into a good guy and have him leave his criminal ways in the past, but we all know that's not going to really happen. This contrasts with Ron's preference for men, though he makes it clear he's not gay because he's a ‘giver, not a receiver.' These characters develop over a series of events, some of which humanize the Kray's and some of which depict just how brutal they really were with some pretty unflinching scenes of strong violence.
The film is narrated from Frances' point of view, which is a bit of a challenge to look past particularly when she's narrating events that she wasn't really around to witness. That's a bit of a flaw in the framing of the picture, as is the fact that she's clearly none too fond of Ron, which leads to a somewhat slanted view of that character. Additionally, the film attempts and only occasionally really succeeds to cram in a lot of plot points that don't do a lot to move the story along or make the characters any more interesting. A good example of this is a connection between the Krays and American mobsters working out of Las Vegas at the time. It's not fleshed out enough to really mean anything and it seems forced in there really for no other reason than to connect the Krays to their American counterparts.
As disjointed as the storytelling tactics are, however, the movie is worth seeing because it is very well acted. Emily Browning, despite issues with her character's narration style, is pretty solid in the role here. She does a decent job of showing both concern and disdain for the brothers and shows strong range as an actress in this picture. She looks great here too. Colin Morgan as her brother is also fine while one time Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston does fine work as Nipper Read. David Thewlis, Paul Bettany and Taron Egerton are all good, but don't get enough screen time to really amount to much. Their characters are shallow and underwritten. Really though, the big draw here is Hardy. He does a great job playing the smooth talking, charming and reasonably calm Reggie and so too does he do great work as the clearly unhinged Ron. He manages to give each role its own character, its own set of quirks and its own personality and on top of that he manages to work some good humor into a few scenes that really make him fun to watch here. The problem, however, is that the movie focuses more closely on Ron than it does on Reggie while Hardy is far more interesting, animated and fun to watch when he's playing psychotic Reggie. This leaves us wishing that the focus of the film was reversed, simply because it would have been more entertaining.
Production values are solid across the board here. The movie is very nicely shot and shows plenty of gloss and sheen. The costumes are often very colorful and consistently impressive looking while the attention to period detail in the cars, décor and hairstyles would seem to be spot on. You could probably complain that Hardy is too pretty to play the brothers here, which is a fair point, but this is a movie and that's allowed and he gets full marks for making it work. When it's all over and done with, however, we're left unfulfilled. Yes, the acting is great on Hardy's part but the story just sort of puts together a bunch of events from the Krays' history and leaves it at that rather than take the audience on a more significant story arc.The Blu-ray:
Legend arrives on a 50GBBlu-ray framed at 2.40.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The transfer is very nice, it's bright and colorful and nicely detailed with strong depth and texture evident in pretty much every shot. There are no issues with compression and the digitally shot production is crisp and clean, free of any obvious video noise. Skin tones look good, black levels are solid. There's not much to complain about here at all, really, Universal has pretty much knocked this out of the park.Sound:
Audio options are provided in English language DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio and French and Spanish DTS Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks with optional subtitles offered up in English SDH, French and Spanish. The lossless option on this disc is a good one, at times approaching reference quality. The more action intensive scenes have all sorts of directional effects to enjoy while the more subtle moments in the movie use the rears to fill in the mix with some appreciable ambient and background noises. Dialogue is crystal clear, the score sounds great and the levels are nicely balanced too. The score also has a lot of depth and presence here, the mix really showing off just how strong that aspect of the movie's sound design really is.Extras:
Writer/Director Brian Helgeland contributes a pretty interesting audio commentary track wherein he talks about the research that went into putting his script together, the period detail he hoped to capture, the locations used in the film and why the movie is called what it's called. Of course, he also talks about Hardy's performance as well as those given by the rest of the cast, gives us a nice run down of who did what behind the camera and generally just gives us a top down look at the production and how it came to be.
The disc also includes a lone featurette entitled Creating The Legend. This eleven minute piece shows off some of the casting decisions before then examining Hardy's dual role and the intricacies of his work in that regard. We also learn about the look of the film, the production design that went into it and a fair bit more.
Aside from that we get menus and chapter selection. Inside the Blu-ray case alongside the disc is an insert card containing a code for a digital HD download of the film. The case in turn fits inside a cardboard slipcover.Final Thoughts:
Legend is very well made on a technical level. The movie looks and sounds fantastic and Universal's Blu-ray release really shows off perfectly just how nicely put together the picture is. Extras aren't going to blow you away but the commentary and featurette are interesting enough. As to the movie itself? Hardy does a fine job in the dual roles here, he's quite good and the supporting players all do fine work too. The story itself, however, has been done before and as such, it never comes across as all that original. This is worth seeing, but it's unlikely all but the die-hard Tom Hardy fans out there will need to see it more than once. Rent it.