Ronald and Reginald Kray (Tom Hardy) have been the subject of books, films and the subject matter of London’s East Side folklore since the 1950’s and 1960’s. They were considered some of the most feared gangsters of that era. Even though many people from around the world may not have heard of these brothers, Legend brings forward their story to the world stage and shows their influence on London over two decades.
The story is narrated by Reggie’s wife, Frances (Emily Browning), from the time she met her husband in their East Side neighbourhood and throughout the highs and lows of their marriage and his criminal activity. The young bride’s haunting narrative delivers the bittersweet experience of being married to a gangster. Her coming to the realisation that the most challenging part of life with Reggie would be enduring his twin brother.
Director Brian Helgeland’s (Mystic River) film is a personal journey through the couple and the brothers’ rise and fall within the sorted world of organised crime. He is able to show how family loyalty can have its positives and negatives in regard to business dealings. Reggie being the sensible and measured leader of their gang called “The Firm”, sees the value of the psychosis of his brother, which assisted in the muscle and fear that was needed to move the organisation.
The challenges come when their personal lives get mixed in with the family business. Reggie’s marriage to Frances, Ronnie’s homosexual relationships and their brotherly allegiance expose the twins blind spots when it comes to their their criminal dealings. The Kray’s tale is one of violence, protection rackets, murder, and familial ties that prove that blood runs deeper than water and ultimately leads to their demise.
Tom Hardy continues to prove his acting credibility by taking on both Kray brothers. He convincingly takes on each character and develops each with an exclusivity to their own personalities and life style choices, but managing to capture the unique bond between twins. His portrayal of Reggie is balanced between his charisma and calculated criminal mind. While he manages to provide the ferocious and unpredictable nature of Ronnie, but shows a fierce sibling loyalty.
The only difficulty with Hardy taking on these notorious twins, if you know the story, is he is too attractive to portray them accurately. It is not enough to derail the film, but for purists it might be a distraction. Brian Helgeland was able to utilise the right cinematic technology to make this dual role work on screen and it rarely becomes a distraction for the storyline.
Emily Browning is able to hold her own against the tour de force that is Tom Hardy. She has matured in her career and characterises the innocence of Frances, but delivers the necessary darkness of her life. To the credit of all involved with the film, the performances were excellent, the script was well thought out and the story is captivating.
The only downside to watching Legend is that the nature of the Kray brothers criminal dealings limit the appeal of this biopic. As would be expected with any gangster film, the level of violence and lack of any moral centre leads to a well told story that screams for some light to be allowed into this dark world, but that illumination never arrives. This an honest portrayal of the gangsters lives and pulls no punches, so be warned that this film is a rendering of a tragic and dark world of the criminal underground which may not appeal to every viewers palette.
Sibling rivalry and loyalty have been the fodder for a multitude of books, films and are even central to many of the key stories in the Bible. From Joseph and his brothers to Jacob and Esau to the sons of thunder, the apostles James and John, brotherly love shows how deep tensions can run across family lines.
The term, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ comes from one of the original and most notorious sibling rivalries, Cain and Abel. The first set of brothers became one of the best known stories of jealousy and murder in human history. Based on it’s history, loving your siblings or others can seem an impossibility. Yet, the Bible also tells us that we are to love our brothers and enemies. Showing us that loving our ‘brothers’ might seem to be an impossibility, but that through God’s strength it can be achieved in this lifetime.
Leaving the cinema…
A brilliantly portrayed story of the dark side of the lives of The Kray brothers. Even though it is a well done, it will probably not be everyone’s cup of tea.
What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
1. What does the Bible say about brotherly love? (Genesis, 4, Roman 12:10, Hebrews 13:1)
2. Can we ever find justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
3. What does this life have to offer? (Ecclesiastes, The gospel of John)
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