Can good performances elevate bad material?
In Legend, the matter isn’t bad material so much is it’s underwritten. Tom Hardy (squared) plays London’s Kray twins, notorious gangland kingpins who counted Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra as regular visitors to their clubs. Reggie is the strategist of the pair, while Ronnie is impulsive and paranoid (he was schizophrenic). While they are constantly at each other’s throats, close to killing the other one, Reggie is extremely protective of Ronnie in an extreme case of brotherly (particularly twin brother, as has been explored in many a film) allegiance. Hardy, assisted by their polar-opposite personalities and the somewhat distracting makeup he wears as Ronnie, plays the twins as indeed two very different characters.
It ends up being a near miracle in Brian Helgeland’s film, which is as flat and underwritten as they come. Focus is dumped in favour of a lifeless retelling of a series of events. Instead of an arc, writer/director Brian Helgeland (who won an Oscar for penning L.A. Confiedntial and was nominated for another for Mystic River) simply lays out beat after beat, without any kind of intriguing pull, and slapping a pointless narration by Emily Browning’s Frances (who is sadly given nothing to do except pout before it’s time for her to come to an tragic end). Kingsman star Taron Egerton also appears all too briefly as Ronnie’s boyfriend (even though, somewhat maddeningly, the two are never seen being intimate). Character is also nonexistent in the design and scoring, which puzzlingly chooses to steal a large amount of the soundtrack for Lone Scherfig’s fabulous An Education and set the gang-filled East-End against brightly painted, clean houses and streets, feeling all too upbeat and shiny for what Helgeland is aiming for. Perhaps for those with more of an interest in the story of the Kray twins would be able to find more merit in this, able to fill in the blanks that still exist despite the beat-by-beat presentation, but the result is still a waste of good talent.