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Tom Hardy shows the ‘Legend’ behind the infamous Kray twins

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By Nicole Wallack

December 8, 2015

The word gangster often elicits images of bootleggers in Chicago in the 1920s and people like Vito Corleone ordering hits on rivals in New York City. Possibly the furthest from most people’s minds at hearing the word gangster is London in the 1960s. “Legend” shows that crime and gangsters are just as at home in London in the 1960s as they are in any dimly lit backroom of an Italian restaurant in America. 

“Legend” is a biopic of the Kray twins — vicious killers from the East End of London. Reggie Kray and Ronnie Kray (both played by Tom Hardy) ruled London for years, controlling clubs and casinos and even getting involved with the American mafia. Ronnie and Reggie, despite both being self-proclaimed gangsters, were as different from each other as could be. Ronnie was mentally unstable, paranoid schizophrenic, and openly homosexual at a time when being so was illegal. Reggie on the other hand, was suave, a ladies man, and the more likeable of the twins. According to the film, the twins were untouchable by Scotland Yard for years aside from small inconsequential sentences. The Krays were able to practically flaunt their organized crime because Ronnie ran something of a homosexual brothel in his apartment that a Member of Parliament attended. In order to prevent bad publicity and the necessity of arresting a Member of Parliament on homosexuality charges, Scotland Yard stayed out of the Kray brothers’ way until they could arrest them on serious charges which ended up being a murder charge for each brother.

The differences between the brothers are really what show how extraordinary Hardy’s acting is in this film. The manic behavior of Ronnie juxtaposed with the easy elegance of Reggie shows just how comfortable Hardy is playing a variety of roles. Hardy wonderfully plays both roles, interacting with himself in an entirely natural and brotherly manner.

In addition to the exquisite acting, the film is also rather artfully crafted. The film is narrated by the physically abused and neglected wife of Reggie, Frances (played by Emily Browning), who gives a more human perspective on the vicious Krays. She explains how she fell in love with Reggie and her experiences with Ronnie. Her almost omniscient narration provides more depth to the Krays and insight into their rather tumultuous world. 

However artful the film and great the performances by Hardy, the film falls short in terms of historical accuracy, as is common for biopics. It seems only fitting that a story about gangsters would further stretch the truth to make it more entertaining, and “Legend” does just this. According to the biography of the Kray twins, “The Profession of Violence,” on which the film is based, and those that knew the Krays, Reggie was not quite as sane as his brother was unstable. Reggie had his own psychological problems and emotionally abused Frances, allegedly dripping his own blood on Frances while she slept because he knew of her fear of blood and wanted to torture her.

According to the biography and those that knew the Krays, Frances was the innocent and emotionally tortured woman who hated her husband’s criminal enterprises as portrayed on screen. Another area of contention with the truth of the film relates to the sexuality of the twins. Both twins were reportedly bisexual, with Ronnie leaning more towards men than Reggie. The film does play with the truth, but that does not mean that it is not enjoyable or riveting.

“Legend” boasts wonderful on screen portrayals and an intriguing script. Despite its aberrations from the truth, the film is fully entertaining for its rather long over two hour runtime and does show how the infamous Kray twins became something of a legend.

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