Legend (2015)

I’m a great fan of Tom Hardy so I was expecting to unreservedly love Legend, but I found the movie a bit of a mess.

Tom Hardy was great, and succeeded in making the two brothers distinctive. The film was unworthy of him! It’s a testament to his performance that I was engaged with most of the film, even though I found the plot awfully scattered, bizarrely inconsistent tone, dull visuals, etc.

The film made the classic biopic mistake of darting all around the subject’s life for the famous (or infamous) parts at the cost of a consistent tone or narrative. It’s frustrating because two 2015 films did biopics perfectly (Steve Jobs, and Love & Mercy) because they didn’t just blindly conform to that structure; they crafted a narrative that worked specifically to the benefit of the film itself. Legend doesn’t even have a proper endpoint, because it was never about capturing a particularly important or interesting time in the brother’s life, it was about muddying its way through a few of their more interesting affairs. It really hurt the tone when the first half of the film was a sort of fun crime film, and the second half devolved into legal proceedings and wife beatings and repetitive fractured relationships, and so on. Not in a natural way like Goodfellas did, but in a disparate way that just made the movie feel a mess.

The decision to focus so much on Reggie’s relationship with Frances rather than his relationship with Ronnie wasn’t wise, because while Browning gives a decent performance, the real fascination (for me at least) was in the interesting and original relationship between the two brothers, not a gangster-falls-in-love-with-nice-girl plot we’ve all seen dozens of times.

The supporting cast was alright, but not given much to do – a shame, because I’m a great fan of Eccleston.

The camerawork never settled on one style; shifting from nice tracking shots in the clubs to the classic cut-cut-cut fight scenes of modern action cinema, to static landscape shots, to faux-panning shots in rooms…I just never felt like I could latch on to a style.

I was hoping this would either be a somewhat comic look at the Kray brothers, perhaps offering up some thoughts on sibling relationships, or a more serious crime biopic, but instead I got a stilted, poorly paced melodrama focusing a bizarre amount of time on Frances’ point of view. Her amateur philosophising really took me out of whatever scenes she narrated.

I really wanted to love this film, and I did enjoy a lot of scenes (mostly in the first half), but overall it was just such a mess. I’ll watch anything with Tom Hardy, but even with the great twins/one actor gimmick, this isn’t a film I’m going to remember.

I give it two brothers, and a broken bottle.

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