Review: 'Legend' is unfocused and gimmicky

Tom Hardy plays Ronnie and Reggie Kray. (Shaw Organisation)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 131 minutes (~2.25 hours)

“Legend” is a gangster biopic about the Kray twins and their reign of terror in London. It centres around Reggie Kray and his relationship with his insane brother, Ronnie Kray. It stars Tom Hardy (Reggie Kray and Ronnie Kray), Emily Browning (Frances Shea), Christoper Ecceleston (Leonard Read), Taron Edgerton (Edward Smith), Paul Bettany (Charlie Richardson), and Colin Margon (Frankie Shea). It is rated M-18.

“Legend” might convey an idea of a grand, sweeping epic, but the movie is hardly given such a treatment. If anything, it’s a rather humanising treatment of the two brothers, narrowing the scope to the emotions involved, rather than extending it to encompass more. It’s not a bad way to approach the subject matter, but the title itself already does the movie a disservice by setting a different expectation from what you actually see in the film itself.

Frances (Emily Browning) and Reggie. (Shaw Organisation)

Highlights

A story about love

Although it’s a story of siblings and family, the one unchanging factor is Reggie’s love for Frances, regardless of the circumstances. Although Frances’ narration doesn’t quite match what we see on screen, it’s interesting to chart how her feelings develop over the film, and the evolution about their relationship. Reggie might have his flaws, but you can’t fault his loyalty and love for his wife.

Frances is an interesting character

Even though her role isn’t as significant as the introduction makes it out to be, Frances retains her appeal and mystique because she grows and develops along with Reggie in the film. She’s not part of his gangster lifestyle, which gives us a character that we can relate to. Her reactions and judgements are organic and believable, and she might possibly be the most sympathetic character in the film.

Frances ponders. (Shaw Organisation)

Letdowns

Ronnie feels more like a gimmick than an actual character

The problem with Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Ronnie is that there are no subtleties or nuances to the character. With Reggie, he seems like a fully rounded character, with admirable traits and nasty quirks. But Ronnie has only two facets to his character - psychopathy and boorishness. It’s not just his speech patterns that are on the nose, constantly reminding you that he’s crazy, but his entire demeanour and performance that are stark and blunt. There’s virtually no character development or change in him, and he’s the same at the beginning and in the end. As such, Ronnie feels more like an obstacle than an actual character.

Narrator and ending is a cop out

The narrative technique starts off with some level of intrigue, and foreshadows a certain type of ending. What eventually follows, however, makes you feel cheated and disappointed. Even the narrator says so herself, and it makes you wonder if the narration was a last minute inclusion, rather than being a planned, cohesive part of the film. This spoils the entire climax, jarring you from your immersion in the biopic.

Cartoony treatment

The film doesn’t go far enough in its eccentricities to be stylised, and what results is strange, slightly juvenile treatment that comes across as very odd. While it’s a unique change of pace, it’s not one that suits the topic of the film, and clashes with the unfolding plot.

The Kray twins. (Shaw Organisation)

“Legend” fails to have a singular vision driving its production, resulting in a mishmash of different elements, treatments and plot devices that don’t quite gel together. While it does tell a tale of love and family, the gangster element just doesn’t seem that authentic.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? No.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? If you like gangster films.

“Legend” opens in cinemas 12 November, 2015 (Thursday).