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Review Roundup: Is Tom Hardy Bad or Brilliant As Twin Mobsters in ‘Legend’?

Review Roundup: Is Tom Hardy Bad or Brilliant As Twin Mobsters in 'Legend'?

Despite his intermittently superb turn as identical twins Ronald and Reggie Kray, larger-than-life gangsters who rose to infamy in 1960s London, Tom Hardy can’t save writer/director Brian Helgeland’s “Legend” from its unwieldy, strangely glossy construction.

Critics are split on the actor’s dual portrait, but most agree that the underlying problem is the clash between the overcooked direction and half-baked script. Helgeland (“L.A. Confidential,” “Mystic River”) plays up the Swinging Sixties vibe—the Kray brothers rubbed shoulders with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland via their West End nightclub—but the comic-book aesthetic struggles to bridge the divide between Reggie, the straight tough, and Ronnie, a psychotic, violent gay playboy. The film’s narrator, Reggie’s wife, Frances (Emily Browning), offers a side door into the story, but this is, as Variety critic Guy Lodge notes, a “compromised” strategy: “Legend” employs Frances as a cohesive force, but her character remains fragmentary.

“Legend” co-stars David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, and Chazz Palmintieri. The film opens stateside Oct. 2. Read the first reviews below:      

Guy Lodge, Variety
“[Hardy’s] Reggie is a suave, charismatically volatile antihero calculated to
inspire perverse admiration among younger male auds; his playfully
eccentric inhabitation of the gay, mentally unstable Ronnie would, on
its own, rep the more extravagant bid for thespian kudos. That both
these distinct achievements—the work of a vital movie star and a
resourceful character actor, respectively—are contained within a
single performance is, of course, its true marvel. The illusion is
achieved so fluidly and separably that the practicalities of the stunt
are soon forgotten.”

Benjamin Lee, The Guardian
“Despite the fact that we’re dealing with all too real and relatively
recent events, the entire film is given a brightly lit, cartoonish feel
as if we’re watching an adaptation of a gaudy graphic novel. Scenes are
constructed as if they’re part of a stage production, the soundtrack is
clunky and filled with maddeningly obvious choices… The result is a major lack of atmosphere and an overwhelming stench of
inauthenticity. We’re never transported, we’re merely stuck on a tour
bus.”

Helen O’Hara, The Telegraph
“It’s too long and too muddled to stand among the greatest
British gangland films like ‘The Long Good Friday,’ let alone the
greatest gangster movies ever. That’s as it should be; real gangsters
dismiss the Krays as wannabes, more desperate for attention than real
cred. But as this big, brash ode to these brassnecked chancers shows,
they succeeded in building a legend even if they failed to create an
empire.”

Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter
“Struggling painfully to hold the two mismatched parts together, Helgeland has made Reggie’s wife, Frances (Emily Browning),
the third point in this quasi-incestuous love triangle. In a move that
may have been intended from the start but that plays like an act of
postproduction triage brought in to create some kind of coherence,
Frances’ voiceover narrates the film throughout, even past the point
where it makes any logical narrative sense for her to do so.”

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