Director: Brian Helgeland
Stars: Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy
2 (out of 5) Globes
The gangster movie is in a tough spot now. A genre that thrives on mythology, built on tales either embellished or frighteningly real, now finds itself in an era when we want the real deal — when even our superheroes must be dragged down to gritty, grimy earth. But real gangsters’ lives are as messy as everyone else’s, which is to say not easily condensed into a movie’s mere two hours-and-change. And so we get “Black Mass” and now “Legend,” two tales of larger-than-life underworld gods, and two films that sputter around without focus through epic, convoluted stories crammed as nuts and fruit and goo are into a KIND bar.
Plowing through a decade of criminal tomfoolery in the lives of East End Londoners Ronnie and Reginald Kray, “Legend” can’t find a solid in — all the more shocking as it’s from Brian Helgeland, who won an Oscar for cracking James Ellroy’s sprawling tome “L.A. Confidential.” But it has a good hook. Or at least it has the right actor and a gimmick that feels novel but not cheap. It gives you double the Tom Hardy, cast as both the suave Reg and the Cro-Magnon Ron, the latter a paranoid schizophrenic lifted from a much-needed psych ward stint through his brother’s nudge-nudgey influence.
The Krays’ story is narrated by Reg’s increasingly disillusioned, waifish wife Frances (Emily Browning), but it’s really a Greatest Hits collection. There’s the time they brought a hammer to a bar fight. There’s the time Ron shot a guy in a packed bar. There’s the time they beat each other up in public. (The latter is done with some nifty POV shots, with one Tom Hardy assaulting the camera, then switching over to the other Tom Hardy doing the same.)