New Kray Twins Film Is EastEnders With Ultraviolence

Legend ★★☆☆☆

By Stuart Black Last edited 39 months ago
New Kray Twins Film Is EastEnders With Ultraviolence Legend 2

Of all the movies that could have taken the grandiose title Legend, this tedious Britflick about the Kray twins is surely the least fitting. Ignoring the fact there were two of them (so presumably the word should be pluralised), this interminable tale prompts only the urge to forget this pair of obnoxious blockheads as quickly as humanly possible.

Their story is a shabby one: a rise from poor(ish) East End origins at the expense of their own community to the dizzy heights of tacky club owners, before a taste for thoroughly purposeless violence got them banged up for 30 years. Any which way you cut them: the Krays were small potatoes.

So making a biopic better involve bringing something interesting to the table, especially as we've already had the Spandau Ballet brothers give as good an account of Reggie and Ron as we'll ever need. This time round American writer-director Brian Helgeland has been drafted in, presumably to see things with an outsider's eye. But somehow he gets sucked down the same cracked kitchen sink that snags so many homegrown films of this ilk and so it's pretty much the same old dreary stodge as you would expect.

He does have a bit of money to make it look nice however, and the sound and music are excellent. The visceral crunch of the punching and a soundtrack of sweet 60s soul do well to disguise the film's complete lack of substance — for the first thirty minutes at least. After that, it becomes all too apparent that Legend doesn't have a single idea in its head. It starts with the premise that violence is sexy, but beyond that there's no thesis about the brutality it repeatedly salivates over, no point of view to offer on either crime or punishment, power or perversity. As a result, all the huff and puff — the hammers in the face and the biting off of ears, oh, and a tastelessly tasteful rape scene (with the camera backing away so Reg can teach his wife a lesson in private, thank you very much) — are just lurid for the sake of lurid.

It's basically Eastenders with ultraviolence. Almost every scene plays out the same way: a bit of macho glaring, someone gets smashed on the bonce, then someone shouts: "Calm daan you cant!" It may be shocking/thrilling at first (depending on your persuasion) but it wears very thin, very quickly. Shuffle the scenes in any order and you'd have more or less the same movie.

You probably know by now that Tom Hardy plays both twins and, let's be fair here, he is very watchable. But that's not because he's hugely convincing. You're always aware you're watching an actor making choices, though many of these are pleasingly odd. Hardy strings together the affectations as he searches for the twins' characters. It's fun at times watching him do it, but it does keep the audience's empathy at arms length.

There are probably great performances to come from Hardy, though he really needs a first rate director (or more likely a smart editor) to bring them out. His eccentric Kray twins stand alongside his Dr Evil inspired Batman villain and his Mr Bean inflected Mad Max as diverting curiosities. His only real success so far is his live-wire interpretation of another crap Cockney crook in Nicholas Winding Refn's film Bronson (but please Tom, no more of these irrelevant lowlife criminals — we really don't need to see your Ronnie Biggs).

Without Hardy's star power this would have been a straight-to-DVD affair. Don't believe the title, there's nothing here worth memorialising. A better name for this film would have simply been: Wankers.

Last Updated 11 September 2015