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    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Legend

    Released By: Universal
    Released On: March 1, 2016
    Director: Brian Helgeland
    Cast:Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri
    Year: 2015
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    The Movie:

    The word "gangsters" brings to mind many things, primarily the image of a cigar-chomping, pinstriped suit-wearing mafioso spraying bullets from a tommy gun, perched on the running board of a speeding 1920's model Cadillac. For others, it may conjure up Scorcese's GOODFELLAS, snappy dressers waving around fistfuls of cash and extorting protection money from local businesses. Few would draw a connection to East London, but it was in that setting that two of the 20th century's most infamous criminals, twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray, ruled the organized crime world with brutal violence and a dapper sense of style befitting of the Swinging 60's.

    LEGEND opens with Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy), already a top-dog in his neighbourhood, openly taunting the detectives assigned to follow him around town as he makes his way over to the home of his driver Frankie, who has unwisely decided to sleep in. Lady Luck has decided to show up in Frank's corner that day, however, and Reggie's impatient knocking at the door brings Frank's sister Frances (Emily Browning), a young beauty who instantly captures Reggie's heart. Though she's aware of Reggie's reputation as a hard man (her mother certainly doesn't mind reminding her), Frances allows herself to be courted, treated like a princess at nightclubs owned by the Krays.

    Speaking of the Krays, plural, however, there's another issue to be addressed; that of Reggie's twin brother, Ronnie. Sent to prison for grievous bodily harm and later remanded to a mental hospital and diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Reggie has Ronnie released with the help of a frightened psychiatrist. Compensating for his homosexuality (regarded as a weakness at the time) with psychotic, brutal violence, Ronnie helps Reggie fight off rival families in a variety of nasty ways, like going to town on a pub full of enemy gang members with two clawhammers. When Reggie is sent to prison, Ronnie's madness goes unchecked, threatening the legacy that Reggie has built for himself and Frances. And when Reggie finishes serving his time, his homecoming is marred by a jealous rivalry between his wife and brother, one pulling him towards the straight life, and the other pulling him further down into the underworld of organized crime. With each act of violence getting more brutally reckless and the police closing in, it's only a matter of time before something gives, and there's no resolution that will be free of casualties.

    Brian Helgeland's LEGEND is quite an accomplishment in a number of ways, the primary reason being the skill of its lead actor. Tom Hardy absolutely nails it in this picture in every way, switching between the diverse personalities of the two brothers with apparent ease. Let it be said that I'm not the Tom Hardy fan in the house, but he's fantastic in this...both cold and charming as Reggie, and absolutely batshit psychotic as Ronnie. As Reggie's situation grows more dire, his personality more closely mirrors Ronnie's, but even then, the exchanges between the two characters show off how very capable he is of playing two different parts. The supporting cast is fantastic as well, with Emily Browning providing a wonderful sympathetic character, and her narration adding a strange, otherworldly vibe to the film, and Christopher Eccleston strongly delivering as Detective Nipper Read. Helgeland deserves a lot of praise as well, having co-written the film (adapted from John Pearson's book) and directing it more than competently, keeping the pacing tight...for the most part...and drawing out some fantastic performances. The cinematography is beautiful as well, capturing the era, the excellent set dressing and design, and elaborate wardrobe.

    With all of that praise, though, there's got to be something wrong, and a few things stand out. First off, at just over 130 minutes, the film does feel fairly laggy as it closes in on the two hour mark.'s not much longer than 2 hours, and the pacing ramps up after that lag. Secondly, and though this can be attributed to Hardy's performance more than the writing and directing, well...the Krays are just too damn likable. They were apparently charming in real life, true. But one forgets that we're watching the exploits of vicious murderers here, and we're given more to sympathy for two guys who are just doing what needs to be done. It's not quite glorifying, but it's close. And maybe because of all of that, the end of the film comes with the notion that we haven't really learned anything about the Krays, or their motivations, that LEGEND is largely a pretty-looking film with some pretty-looking actors based around two or three somewhat significant events of violence. Granted, a decade-plus long story can't be fully told in two hours, but one gets the impression that a little more effort could've been made.


    LEGEND comes to Universal Blu-ray (with HD Digital Download) in a 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer that looks fantastic. Black levels are great here, detail is sharp throughout, and colours are strong without being overwhelming. Nary a speck of dirt or dust is present, and the transfer captures the aesthetic of the film perfectly.

    Audio is provided courtesy of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track (French and Spanish lossy DTS 5.1 tracks are also available) and it sounds as good as the film looks, with extensive use of the surrounds and LFE, providing a fully immersive experience. You may find yourself going for the subtitles here and there, but that's not a fault of the track so much as the accents on display, and the dynamic range presented will showcase your surround sound setup, or put it to shame.

    Descriptive Video Service (English) as well as French, English, and Spanish Subtitles are available.

    For a major studio picture, we're a little light on extras here. The lone video feature is Creating The Legend(11:03), which features Helgeland and many of the actors discussing the roles that they play (with emphasis on Hardy's dual roles) and the significance of the Krays, as well as touching on the scene in 1960's London. It's a neat featurette, but far too short.

    Thankfully, a commentary with Brian Helgeland fills out the gaps left in the featurette, and the Writer/Director enthusiastically covers just about every aspect of the film, from locations they used, the score, fun facts about the 90's film (starring the brothers from Spandau Ballet as the Krays), as well as passing on the anecdotes picked up from associates of the brothers. The commentary is definitely worth a listen, but is NOT spoiler-free, so anyone who hasn't seen the film, beware.

    The Final Word:

    Like most "Based On A True Story" films from major studios, LEGEND is a glossy, too-pretty look at the twin gangsters who terrified their rivals in the 50's and 60's and committed countless crimes...including cold-blooded murder. However, going into the film with that in mind...that you're not going to be thoroughly educated by the time the credits roll...will more than likely provide an enjoyable, entertaining couple of hours at the movies, witnessing some great acting talent and solid filmmaking.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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