Thursday 17 September 2015

Review: Legend

World of Blackout Film Review

Legend Poster

Cert: 18 / 131 mins / Dir. Brian Helgeland / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

legend (noun | leg-end | \ˈle-jənd\)
1) a story coming down from the past; especially: one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

As a general rule I don't read reviews of films before I see them, mainly because I'll pick up on any points they raise and that will shape the prism I watch through. However, I didn't see Legend until it'd been out for a few days, so I browsed over a couple to get the reaction to Tom Hardy's dual-roles as the Kray Brothers. Whilst generally favourable, I noticed that more than one writer had questioned the veracity of the tale, namely the events that are narrated by Reggie Kray's wife Frances, of which she'd have no knowledge. [Spoilers: Highlight-to-read] Well, since it's revealed mid-way through the film that she's narrating everything from the afterlife, Legend can hardly be taken as a documentary, now can it? [/spoilers]. The clue is in the title, heavily insinuating that the story which unfolds is every bit as subject to hearsay and interpretation in 2015 as it would have been in 1967, particularly since so many of the main players are no longer around to either dispute or verify the facts. Maybe treat it the same way you would any other London gangster movie?

And with that off my chest, onto the movie itself. A suspiciously clean-looking 1960s East End is the backdrop for this tale of London's notorious criminals, and most audiences will be aware that neither the style, setting nor characters themselves are new to the big screen. This would be an easy film to get wrong for a number of reasons, but I really enjoyed it, with reservations. Director Brian Helgeland is trying very hard to resist turning it into a Guy Ritchie flick (particularly since Ritchie doesn't really work in that genre at the moment), but the only other weapon it has in its arsenal is being a moody melodrama; and it's hard to tell an emotional story when pretty much every single character on-screen is repellent in one way or another. So claw-hammers and quotable-dialogue it is, then. Running parallel to all this is a slightly patronising and intrusive soundtrack, which feels like a generic 1960s compilation album rather than any meaningful accompaniment to the film.

But you don't sit down to watch Legend for the soundtrack, or the 1960s clichés, or the underdeveloped secondary characters. You're here for Tom Hardy; and he's magnificent as both Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Wardrobe and thick-rimmed glasses separates the characters on a superficial level, but Hardy's love of affected voice-work and extremely physical acting completes the job, to the point where you pretty much forget you're watching the same actor in two different places at once (although a couple of scenes feature fairly shonky effects-work which will remind you again). In fact, it's not too unfair to say that Tom Hardy is so much better than the rest of the film it's untrue. Without his performance (and without the script's frequent foul language), this would be a late-night ITV costume drama.

I get the feeling (from the title alone) that the film wishes it had spread its wings more and pushed a little harder at either end, rather than trying to deliver a movie which doesn't offend those who remember that the Krays were a couple of murderers, but also doesn't disappoint everyone who's watching on the promise of the killings. What we get is something noncommittally in-between. Interesting and entertaining, but not bringing anything new to the table other than its central performance.

Does Legend glamourise the Krays? Yes, a little, although it certainly won't change your mind on them.
Should it glamourise them? No, not really.

Does that make it a worse film? No, not really.

Oh, and why does Reggie Kray's tie-pin keep moving about throughout the film? A man finds his personal 'right level' for a tie-pin and then ensures maintains it. That wouldn't happen in a Guy Ritchie flick…

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Yes, although that might be £10 better spent by buying it on DVD.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
If you love Tom Hardy and you love swearing gangsters, it'll be a buy-er.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
It's a film young Tom can add firmly to his CV, yes.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Despite my enjoyment, I don't think it does.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not at all.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not at all.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Well, there are no one-step links, but the film stars:
Tom Hardy, who appeared in Warrior alongside Joel Edgerton (Uncle Owen in the Prequel Trilogy).

Emily Browning, who appeared in 2011's Suckerpunch alongside Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens).

Taron Egerton, who appeared in 2015's Kingsmen, alongside Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker in the Original and Sequel trilogies) and Sam Jackson (Mace Windu in the Prequel Trilogy)

Paul Bettany, who appeared in 2006's Firewall, alongside Harrison Ford (Han Solo in the Original and Sequel Trilogies).

David Thewlis, who appeared in The Theory of Everything, alongside Felicity Jones (due to star in Star Wars: Rogue One).

Christopher Ecclestone, who appeared in Shallow Grave, alongside Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Prequel Trilogy).

Colin Morgan, who appeared in the BBC series Merlin, two episodes of which featured Linsday Duncan (the voice of TC-14 in The Phantom Menace).

Paul Anderson, who appears in 2015's The Revenant, alongside Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux in The Force Awakens).

Sam Spruell, who appeared in 2015's Taken 3, alongside Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace).

Kevin McNally, who appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, alongside Keira Knightley (Sabé in The Phantom Menace).

Tara Fitzgerald, who appeared in Exodus: Gods And Kings alongside Ben Mendelsohn (due to star in Star Wars: Rogue One).

Adam Fogerty, who appeared in Mean Machine alongside Ralph Brown (Ric Olié in The Phantom Menace)…

it's well-connected.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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