This was the 3rd Tom Hardy starrer that I experienced in 2015, and it’s his finest acting showcase of the trio. Funny how that works out. Because it’s the least critically acclaimed of the group, and the British-produced showcase was met with minimal interest here in the States. “The Revenant”, on the other hand, is poised to grab major Oscar gold at the end of the month, while also garnering Mr. Hardy his very first Academy Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actor. While “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the probably the most lauded release of the past year, with strong box office, massive critical support, and 10 Oscar nominations of its own–including Best Picture. However, “The Revenant” is all about Leonardo DiCaprio taking a beating, and most likely walking away with his first gold statue. While “Fury Road” is just as much Charlize Theron’s picture, as it is Hardy’s, and is more about the explosive comeback of director George Miller than anything else. “Legend” is all Tom Hardy…two of him, to be exact, as the murderous gangsters, the Kray twins. The movie itself is just okay, but Hardy proves once again why he’s one of the finest film actors in the world.
It’s mid 1950’s London, and the notorious Krays (both played by the versatile Mr. Hardy) are rapidly becoming the kingpins of the city’s criminal underground. Reggie, a one-time boxer, is the more controlled and stable of the duo. But Ronnie is severely unstable, and has spent time in psychiatric wards while in prison. Reggie eventually secures Ronnie’s release, but the “crazy one” is prone to violent outbursts, and is clearly a psychopath–despite periods of lucidity. So while Reggie takes a stab at a semi-normal existence, romantically wooing, and eventually marrying a local girl named Frances Shea (a solid Emily Browning), Ronnie plunges deeper and deeper into his psychotic behavior. They do manage to strike a big crime syndicate deal with the infamous Meyer Lansky of the United States. But Ronnie’s erraticism leads to probing attention from the authorities at Scotland Yard.
The period flavor of “Legend” is strong, burgeoned by Dick Pope’s gorgeous cinematography, Crispian Sallis’s striking set decoration, and Caroline Harris’s excellent costume design. But writer/director Brian Helgeland forces an uneven tone, and the film is almost fatally overlong. Also, I don’t like his voice-over narration device, a similar technique as the one used in David O. Russell’s “Joy”. Both real life portraits were cheapened by this decision. So, Helgeland’s choices are iffy, but the story is an undeniably interesting one. Still, the screenplay needed tighter focus. But see it for Tom Hardy…he’s mesmerizing. And this is the 2015 release that brings to light the full power of his talent and ability. The film also features David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri, Paul Bettany, and Tara Fitzgerald. They are all excellent performers–but all you’ll remember is Mr. Hardy.
next reviews up: “When Marnie Was There” and “Boy & the World”