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“Legend” Crime Drama Directed by Brian Helgeland Essay

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Updated: Jun 19th, 2022

“Legend” is a crime drama directed by Brian Helgeland based on an authentic storyline where two twin brothers from London engage in organized criminal activity. Tom Hardy portrays both brothers that are not typical “legends” the one may expect to see from the title.

Helgeland revives the images of the Kray brothers, Reggie and Ronny that at some point become one of the leading players in the brutal games of the gangster side. Viewers are invited to follow the story behind an unusual family business shaded with obstacles shaping events in London of 1950s. The filmmaking part of the “Legend” leaves even more space for one’s doubt than the plot does. The viewer gets engaged seeing the complexity of Hardy’s acting craft with a plaque of historical drama. Nevertheless, critics lament the lack of depth and development behind the rise and fall of the 60s London’s most notorious criminals and continue to compare this narrative to the previous works of Helgeland. Berardinelli openly criticizes the quality of analysis done on the film’s material but highlights Hardy’s performance. The lodge seems to be dissatisfied with the fragmented script in comparison to Helgeland’s previous works. Kenny points out the banality and clashes that creators of “Legend” failed to omit. The discussion on “Legend” is worth further exploration, as there are many cinematographic elements that were truly omitted by the director and harmed the synopsis of the feature film.

Starting from the movie’s “main advantage,” as Kenny phrased it, Tom Hardy does absolutely great at portraying two separate individuals on the one screen (2). Even Berrardineli, in his extremely critical review, leaves room for a positive comment towards Hardy’s work: “It’s hard to put any of the blame for the film’s missteps on star Tom Hardy, who acts with conviction” (2). In fact, twins are shown to the audience through the lens of a very delicate work done by Hardy. The charisma of the starring actor centers the audience’s attention and leaves an exhilarating feeling. The legendary brothers from the East End decided to engage in an illegal lifestyle surrounding themselves with robbery, murders, racketeering. Hardy splits his talent into two separate lifelines that constantly cross while portraying both Reggie and Ronny Kray. There is no doubt left that these two are blood-related while looking at them. However, once the first act of the storyline is finished, and one gets to know both protagonists better, there is a degree of astonishment at how different they are.

Hardy does an indisputably good job of being both Krays, and he succeeds in his task of splitting the territory between two archetypes. Reggie is a rational, pragmatic, yet one may say, wimpy and uninteresting middle-class businessman. He is worried about money, clubs, reputation, control, and he does not miss an opportunity to lecture his brother. Reggie, played by Hardy, is a classical gangster that everyone expects to see “suave, charismatically volatile antihero” with all the ambitions and self-confidence (Lodge p.2). Reggie is a more business-oriented brother that tends to resemble a classical criminal of the decade.

As for his brother, Ronny is definitely a center of attention in this film as his character is folded into the veil of extravagance. Viewers get to know an outrageously violent cliched “evil twin” that causes evident issues with the operationalization of the business. Ronny’s behavior could be explained as a result of the untreated schizophrenia he suffers from. However, the point should be made on how perfunctorily, if not to say “superficially,” scriptwriters covered this theme. As a result, the masterful performance of Tom Hardy from an acting point is excellent, yet as a viewer, one lacks empathy towards the main heroes as we do not get to know their whole and complete story.

The problematic coverage of the protagonists’ motivations is connected to the issues with the script fragmentation and quite mediocre quality of research that viewers experience through the indifferent coverage of the story itself. It would be naive to expect from Helgelang the detailed and precise history behind the case of the Kray brothers. Nevertheless, there is a failed attempt to create a multifaceted narrative filled with alternative storylines. Viewers are left with a feeling of a dry average Hollywood criminal drama without the creator’s personalized touch. As I identified by analyzing all the pretenses Kenny, Lodge, and Berardinelli wrote, the plot’s main issue that creates this vibe of artificially made flicker is the lack of focus. It should be noted that Frances’ story cannot be omitted in this sense as a direct representation of generalized cliches that the “Legend” is filled with.

Frances is shown as a typical female role-model from the 50s and a “gangster’s girlfriend” simultaneously. Kenny makes a point highlighting Frances’s tragedy being the Achilles heel of the film: “Frances’ story that the movie, for me, broke away from irritating mediocrity and into genuine badness” (3). One observes Frances being a victim of the toxic relationships between her and Reggie. However, there is not enough emotional connection that could be made with Frances to sympathize with her character truly. The destruction of modest Frances that, at first seems an angelic savior that could change Reggie is, in fact, destruction of the film’s moral ethics that could still be outspoken towards the end.

The genre of crime drama is rather limited by the attributes used in the film industry, and it makes it difficult in a sense to create an authentic film out of “Legend.” The central role is preoccupied with gangster brothers that try to build their way to the criminal Olympus. The screenwriting part done by Brian Helgeland was not exceptional but rather written to match the manual. The visual aspect of the film is exceptionally eye-pleasing, and it matches the guidelines of the genre. They are presented below:

  • Vulgar fleur of the gangster lifestyle
  • Interiors of the lavish 50s apartments
  • The trembling of 20th century industrially expanding London

It is necessary to also pay attention to the work done by editors. It is even hard to imagine that there is only one actor in the frame. The visual part aims to compensate for the lacking script parts that were cliched and not as exceptional as the visual picture.

It is worth mentioning that the “Legend” is divided into two parts according to the pace of the narration. The first part is separated from the following one by a scene of a fight between the twins that rather adds a humorous attribute. However, the second piece of a movie transforms the plot vector into a romantic drama creating a problematic and rather unsmooth and uneven switch.

As for the cinematographic elements, it may seem peculiar that Cockney-raised brothers lack even the fundamental steps in education mention ancient heroes and epos. Nevertheless, these lines are not accidental and not oddly placed. This is one of the fewest elements that could be spotted to make a positive statement towards the script. Through these elements, the depth of Ronny Kray could be shown and developed vividly. Supposedly, it was an initial plan or even hooked to create an emotional contact with the audience through these references. However, this symbolic part is instead omitted by an average viewer and even the critics. The problem is covered with the lack of development, and the hidden sense remains hidden to the broader audience.

To conclude, the Kray brothers’ constructed identities in Helgeland’s “Legend” mainly lack development, which leads to further miscommunication between the director and his audience. While there is a starring legend Tom Hardy, his performance does not make a legendary impact. There are two Hardys playing two twins with the unique elements of each character. Reggie is a classical gang trying to take control only over the criminal woman but over her own brother. Ronny is an “evil twin” that at some point becomes the main obstacle towards his brother’s plan. The critics point to inadequate or coverage and mediocrity of the history behind the Kray brothers’ criminal “empire.” Frances’ tragedy that could help add a piece of emotional baggage with the character’s motivation was not thoughtfully and properly written. Hence, the film is being openly criticized for its indifferent way of covering the central issues of the Kray family biography.

Works Cited

“Legend.” Reelviews Movie Reviews. 2015. Web.

Kenny, Glenn. “Legend Movie Review & Film Summary (2015): Roger Ebert.” 2015. Web.

Lodge, Guy. “Film Review: Tom Hardy in ‘Legend’.” Variety. Variety, 2016. Web.

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IvyPanda. ""Legend" Crime Drama Directed by Brian Helgeland." June 19, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/legend-crime-drama-directed-by-brian-helgeland/.


IvyPanda. 2022. ""Legend" Crime Drama Directed by Brian Helgeland." June 19, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/legend-crime-drama-directed-by-brian-helgeland/.


IvyPanda. (2022) '"Legend" Crime Drama Directed by Brian Helgeland'. 19 June.

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