DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

LEGEND (director/writer: Brian Helgeland; screenwriter: from the book by John Pearson "The Profession of Violence"; cinematographer: Dick Pope; editor: Peter McNulty; music:  Carter Burwell; cast: Tom Hardy (Ron & Reggie Kray), Emily Browning (Frances Shea), David Thewlis (Leslie Payne), Joshua Hill (Constable Scott), Mel Raido (Ian Barrie), Christopher Eccleston (Nipper Read), Tara Fitzgerald (Mrs. Shea), Colin Morgan (Frank Shea), Taron Egerton (Teddy Smith), Chazz Palminteri (Angelo Bruno), John Sessions (Lord Boothby), Jane Wood (The Krays' mother), Sam Spruell  (Jack The Hat), Martin McCreadie (Eddie Richardson); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Brian Oliver; Universal; 2015-UK)

"An entertaining but short-sighted character study gangster biopic on the identical twin cockney thugs Reg and Ron Kray."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An entertaining but short-sighted character study gangster biopic on the identical twin cockney thugs Reg and Ron Kray (Tom Hardy), who prospered in "Swinging" London's criminal underworld in the 1960s. Its casting of Tom Hardy to play both thuggish twins works out deliciously well. Director Brian Helgeland ("42"/"Payback"/"The Order") loosely bases his script on the book "The Profession of Violence" by John Pearson.

In the mid-1960s, the Krays ruled their home turf of the East End. Ron Kray is an unsettling homosexual psychopath on meds (diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic), while ex-boxer brother Reg is both a smooth operator and a brutish thug. Their world revolves around intimidation, power grabs and violence. Falling madly in love with his driver's aspiring secretary younger sister Frances Shea (Emily Browning), Reg courts her against her sensible mom's (Tara Fitzgerald) wishes as he hides from Frances his vicious cruel streak.

Frances narrates the film, but her voice-over never brings us closer to understanding much about the delusional Krays, their desire to be big-time criminals and her love for the ruthless gangster.

The Krays hook up with the slimy fixer Leslie Payne (David Thewlis), who gets them legit gambling clubs on the fancy West End and makes it possible for Reg to become a celeb gangster. The Krays advance their power by getting into a fistfight shootout with the Richardson brothers--a rival South End gang. Partnering with Meyer Lansky and his American organized crime ring, as arranged by the Mafia's fixer (Chazz Palminteri), their crime business booms. They also rub out a few gangsters who interfere with their business. They seem untouchable when they survive a brutish sibling punch-out of each other and manage to get out of corruption charges and a scandalous homosexual orgy attended by Ron and the politician Lord Boothby (John Sessions). They are finally put out of business by the obsessed Scotland Yard investigator (Christopher Eccleston), who eagerly helps get them both imprisoned for different murders.

It's slickly done and insubstantial, and the longer the film went on the less interesting it became. It wants to be a doomed love story, but the love scenes were timid and never matched the scenes where the Krays showed us how much they loved being respected gangsters. They could walk the walk of tough hoods, even if their crimes are not memorable. That part was fun.

There were a few films already made on the Krays that were more interesting, such as the Get Carter (1971) film by Mike Hodges and Peter Medak's 1990 film The Krays.

REVIEWED ON 12/5/2015       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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