HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:79
London and its gangsters are almost as famous as America’s Italian mafia and the rise and fall of home grown gangster like Al Capone and the like. While we have good old Al, London’s most famous gangsters were the Kray brothers. A vicious pair of identical twins that terrorized London during the 1960’s before their capture and imprisonment took them out of commission. Based on the novel “The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins”, “Legend” is a lackluster film that is neither great, nor a horrible film, but rather exists as a decently entertaining movie that just “is”. The main pull for “Legend” happens to be Tom Hardy is a fantastic opportunity to play both gangsters at the same time, and does so with incredible panache. Had it not been for his inclusion in the filming process I very seriously doubt the movie would have done even as minusculey well as it did. His dual sided take on Ronnie and Reggie Kray is both mesmerizing and sadly futile, as the veteran actor can’t seem to rise above the mediocre script that constrains his stellar performance.
Reggie Kray is a gangster through and through. He owns a nightclub in London while doing backdoor deals with all of the boxing and criminal elements in town. Everyone knowns he’s bad to the bone, but he still manages to capture the eye and heart of Frances (Emily Browning), the young sister of one of Reggie’s men. Ronnie is his twin brother, and while Reggie is a bit cruel and thuggish, Ronnie is just plain crazy as a loon. Literally. Institutionalized years ago, Reggie is able to put enough pressure on his psychiatrist in order to get his brother out of confinement. Combined the two are a working force of nature where Ronnie is the blunt battle axe of pure unabashed crazy, and Reggie guides the ship so that the two soon rise to the top of the London underworld.
Things are going their way for years, with deals with the American mafia, dominating the completion in the east side of the city, as well as more riches and women (or boys in the case of Reggie) as the two could ask for. However, Scotland Yard is not one to just let the two run rampant over the city, and one inspector Nipper Read (Christopher Eccleston) is hot on their tails the whole time. Always one step behind the two thugs, Read is taken off the case only to be put back on after a violent turn of events brings the Kray brothers back into the targets of Scotland Yard.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=67537[/img]Tom Hardy gives the role his all, infusing life and interest into an otherwise blandly cliché take on the famous gangsters. Penned from the biography written by John Pearson, “Legend” manages to be palatable and solidly engaging whenever Tom Hard makes an appearance as Reggie or Ronnie, but sadly even he can’t make the lackluster script into anything more than what it is. A fairly generic film that just coasts on by. The movie seems to have no real rise and fall to the characters, instead we just see the lives of the two gangsters unfold at a lackadaisical pace. There’s no investment in the characters and no real crowning even that brings some sort of meaning or destruction to their lives. Instead it’s just a matter of letting the clock tick on by until the 2 hour and 12 minute film comes to it’s inevitable conclusion with Reggie in jail and Ronnie back in the nut house.
I can’t really criticize the movie TOO much, as Tom Hardy really IS that great in the twin role of Reggie and Ronnie. He is able to change from a suave and debonair “thug” under the guise as Reggie, into a thickly accented (or at least MORE thickly accented) version in his twin brother Ronnie. Thick witted and brutish, his portrayal of the epic gangster is worth the price of admission alone. Sadly there is a lot of hyperbole and extrapolation of the two gangsters, as is the case with many mob movies. Conflicting reports have come out saying that the Kray’s were not as brutish and dim witted as they appeared in the movie, and that many of the events that are ascribed to the twins are fictitious, especially since Pearson’s book has come under heavy attack from London people who actually knew the twins (both good and bad accusations). Either way, the film is mildly entertaining and isn’t a horrible movie if you enjoy gangster flicks.
Rated R for strong violence, language throughout, some sexual and drug material
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=67545[/img]Shot using the Arri Alex digital camera system, “Legend” looks simply amazing on Blu-ray, sporting a very shiny and neutral looking encode that excels at every corner. Colors are rich and well saturated, giving the film a nice and dingy look that stays surprisingly clean and clean. Just look at the mahogany doors in Reggie’s office as well as the bright greens of the London countryside or the blues of the sky. Contrast levels are well within reason and give the skin tones a very natural and warm look to them. Black levels are solid and inky for the most part with only VERY minimal instances of banding to keep the film from being a perfect 5/5. The smooth veneer is glossy and shiny, but manages to stay finely detailed down the last fiber and speck of dirt on the well-groomed suits, as well as the detailing on the background objects such as the cobblestone streets and brick buildings.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=67553[/img]I was more than pleasantly surprised to find out that “Legend” comes with a very active 7.1 DTS-HD MA track that is just teeming with energy and pizazz. The surrounds are always in constant use, ranging from the city noises of London to the rich and enveloping sounds of the nightclub owned by the twins. Just listen to the music at around the 20 minute mark when Reggie is wining and dining Frances in the club, listening very carefully to how the background mumbling of the patrons blends with the in your face sound of the singer on stage. Dialog is crisp and clear with the only complaint being the thick, heavy English accents (and sometimes Scottish) made it difficult to make out a few lines here and there. Lfe is tight and punchy, accentuating the jazz music playing in the background as well as adding some “punch” (pun intended) to the fisticuffs and various brawls around throughout the film. Simply put, a well done audio experience that, along with the video, is the highest point of the film.
• Director's Commentary
• Creating the Legend
“Legend” is a decent rental, but sadly can’t seem to capture the spark and appeal of the two gangsters, instead content to just coast on by with every clichéd and well-trodden trick that we’ve all seen in every mob movie since the invention of the genre. Tom Hardy does his very best to make this worthwhile, and Emily Browning isn’t too bad herself, but with a script that can’t seem to find any traction there is only so much he can do in the role. The audio and video for the film are simply spectacular, making it at least a solid rental if you’re a fan of said genre.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton
Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Written by: Brian Helgeland, John Pearson (Book)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish, French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 132 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 1st 2016
Buy Legend On Blu-ray at Amazon
More about Mike