"Legend" is a true British gangster story based on the book, "The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins" by John Pearson.
A character driven film, it is the story of the Kray brothers; Reggie and Ronald, who terrorised London during the 1950s and 1960s and is shrewdly narrated by Frances Shea, wife of Reggie from beyond the grave. She provides a perfect intersecting viewpoint that gives an insight into their personal lives, as well as the devious deeds of the brothers.
The film follows the brothers in London's East End during the period, where they ruthlessly ruled the underworld with an iron hand, running - night clubs, protection rackets and committing murders. They were the two most feared men in the East End and they thrived because, "East Londoners won't talk to policemen, but will kiss a gangster."
"Legend" is meticulously crafted by award winning writer-director Brian Helgeland. He gives the film a jarringly gritty brutality, with shocking graphic violence. The narrative is also aptly punctuated with numerous melodious songs that lend a romantic track to the brutal tale.
Included in the narration, are songs by artists such as; The Meters, Duffy, Georgie Fame, Rod Stewart, Burt Bacharach, Poncho Sanchez, The Rockin' Berries, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, The Righteous Brothers and more.
Some of the numbers with lyrics like, "Oh I cried last night" standout in the narration.
While the story is interesting, the film suffers from a sluggish second act, derived from the causality structure of the plot.
On the directorial front, the film is presented in a highly stylized manner. Dick Pope, the director of photography, provides a pretty retro sheen to the effort aided by real East End locations and some stellar production design by Tom Conroy, period costumes from costume designer Caroline Harris and excellent performances by the cast.
Tom Hardy gives an incredible dual skilful performance as Reggie and Ronnie. He is magnificent as he does an impressive turn, making the two brothers seem intense and completely different. As Reggie, he is intelligent, charming and suave and as Ronnie he is short tempered, openly gay and totally psychotic.
He is ably supported by Emily Browning as Frances Shea, Reggie's love interest. With a flawless East End accent, she displays a strong character who later crumbles. She delivers this sensitive role convincingly.
The others who leave a mark are Colin Morgan as Frances's older brother and Reggie's personal driver, Tara Fitzgerald as Elsie Shea- Frances's mother, David Thewlis as the Kray's account man and Taron Egerton as Ronald's toy boy Teddy Smith.
Composer Carter Burwell's background score is brilliant and so is Peter McNulty's editing.
"Legend" is good film, but falls short of being a classic.