LEGEND is Brian Helgeland's movie about the infamous-in-England Kray twins—a pair of flamboyantly violent cockney gangsters who ruled London's East End in the early '60s. Tom Hardy stars as both Reggie, the violent-but-fair leader of the gang (at least in Helgeland's telling), and as Ronnie, a mad dog psychopath—certifiably insane, insecure, violent, childlike yet strangely articulate, and charmingly direct about his homosexuality. Just hearing that, it sounds like it should be the best movie ever made.
But inexplicably, Helgeland's script focuses less on Ronnie and Reggie than it does on Reggie's tedious, repetitive relationship with Frances (Emily Browning), a character who looks like a porcelain doll and has almost as much personality. The whole film is, in fact, narrated by Frances. She's a plucky nice girl who sees the good in Reggie and tries to get him to go straight.
"Reggie, stop doing crime!"
"Oi, oy wiw, Frances, 'cos oy love you, don't oy."
Voiceover: "Reggie stopped doing crimes for 10 minutes, and then his brother screwed up everything."
Legend is this, over and over again. Unlike Ronnie—who brings a donkey wearing a tuxedo to the boys' nightclub and does an impromptu stand-up set about how his customers are cunts—none of Reggie and Frances' interactions are particularly interesting. Early on, I was willing to put up with their scenes as a palate cleanser in between Ronnie killing people with a claw hammer—but two hours into the film, when Helgeland expects us to be invested in Reggie trying to go straight, and Frances is still upset that Reggie won't go straight, and Frances' mom disapproves of Reggie not going straight, I just wanted it to end.
The Krays are bizarre and compelling, but instead of focusing on what's unique about them, Helgeland oversells the familiar. Which makes Legend—shockingly, given the material—pretty dull.