Why am I supposed to care about The Krays? Why do they keep making boring movies about them? Maybe I’d care about the twin gangster brothers if I was British, but good grief, Brian Helgeland’s new film “Legend” isn’t going to stir up any new passion about them.
First of all, the title. Legend. That’s so lazy. Did he ask his eight-year old to name the movie. And speaking of eight-year olds, I’m convinced the director also had a child do the song placement in the movie. On-the-nose song placement is one of my biggest pet peeves in movies. It shows extreme laziness and lack of imagination. A song, particularly a well-known song, in a movie, should ADD to the narrative, not just simple-mindedly underscore it. Here’s how bad it is in “Legend”:
When Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy, and we’ll get to him in a minute) is getting married to the film’s narrator and his wife Frances (Emily Browning), guess what song is playing? “Goin’ to the Chapel.” Yeah, it’s that bad. Earlier in the film, when the brothers are first really climbing the ladder of London’s organized crime scene, we are treated to “The In Crowd.” Good grief. My friend and I would just roll our eyes as each blindingly obvious famous pop song began underscoring an already obvious event on the screen. Sheesh.
Next, the narration. Narration is almost always a bad idea in movies, because, again, it’s lazy. You’re telling instead of showing. There are exceptions, of course, when the narration adds immeasurably to a film (All About Eve, Little Children, Network, etc.) But usually it’s a bad idea. And in Legend, Frances’s voiceover provides FAR more plot than the actual film does.
Now to current It-Boy Tom Hardy. I’ve really liked him in other things, particularly in Locke and The Drop, but he just sucks in Legend. He tries so hard in helping us distinguish between the two identical twins he’s playing that he forgets to actually act. Reggie, the “nicer” criminal maniac, is simply boring, but Ron, the batshit crazy one, is a disaster. The combination of ridiculously thick Cockney accent and slang plus a mouth full of, well, something, means you can only understand about a third of what he says. I don’t think he utters more than three consonants in the entire film. He’s not acting, he’s just showing off. There is a difference.
After his non-performance in Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this year (why was that movie even called Mad Max instead of Imperator Furiosa? He had like three lines in the movie. The movie was about Charlize Theron’s character.), and remembering how awful he was in the third “Batman” movie (his entire performance was a stupid lazy Sean Connery imitation), I’m afraid I may have to re-evaluate him as a major talent.
Legend is full of violence, which shouldn’t surprise me, considering the subject matter. But it’s depressing and upsetting violence. I spent a good portion of the film with my eyes covered.
If I’m not coming through clearly here, I hated, hated, HATED this movie.
I’m bewildered by writer/director Brian Helgeland’s misstep on this one. This is the guy who wrote “LA Confidential,” and wrote and directed one of my favorite films of recent years, 42, not to mention a movie a lot of people really like, A Knight’s Tale. Let’s hope Legend is a soon-to-be forgotten blip in an otherwise excellent body of work.