WE ARE LEGEND
The true-life story of Britain’s most notorious gangsters gets another big-screen adaptation, as the man of the moment TOM HARDY steps into both roles as THE KRAY TWINS. With plenty of cult potential, we see what this version has to offer…
A look at the new adaptation of the notorious KRAYS, with Tom Hardy playing both twins.
Having won a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award for L. A. Confidential (1997) and being nominated for Mystic River (2003), Brian Helgeland has proven his ability as an exceptional screenwriter. Helgeland has also written the screenplays for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), Tony Scott’s Man on Fire (2004) and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (2010) among many others. Writing was not enough for Helgeland, who started directing in 1996 with an episode of Tales from the Crypt, then going on to helm his first feature Payback (1999) starring Mel Gibson. Interestingly, the director’s cut was almost entirely different to the original. With A Knight’s Tale, The Order and 43 also under his belt, Legend will be Helgeland’s sixth feature film as writer and director. Hopefully, with all his previous experiences and skills, he will bring us something gritty and worthy of a good old British gangster flick. Legend is based on the true story of the notorious duo Reginald and Ronald Kray, aka Reggie and Ronnie. It’s a rise and fall story set in London during the 1950s and 1960s, the heyday of the Kray twins, as Helgeland sees us through various points during the peak of their criminal careers. Tom Hardy has taken on a double performance portraying both of the Kray twins, a role it seems he has pulled off with brilliant versatility. Portraying the distinct difference between both characters has a lot to do with Hardy’s performance. With speech and mannerisms changing between the characters with such natural ease, you can appreciate his entire commitment to both roles. Also, a lot has to be said for the makeup department who have done an excellent job in creating prominent differences to Hardy’s physical features to set the twins apart. Whilst Reggie seems to have kept his pretty boy features, Ronnie’s broken nose and thickset jaw are most noticeable and only add to his boorish behaviour. Among a great cast is Welsh actor Taron Egerton ( Kingsman: The Secret Service) a loose and loony member of ‘The Firm’, Paul Bettany ( Avengers: Age of Ultron) playing Charlie Richardson, the head of a sadistic rival gang, and Christopher Eccleston as Detective Superintendent Leonard “Nipper” Read, who leads a squadron in an attempt to bring the Krays to justice. The film also stars gangster connoisseur Chazz Palminteri ( The Usual Suspects) and Australian actress Emily Browning ( Sucker Punch)
who portrays Frances Shea, a love interest of Reggie’s who soon causes friction between the twins. The forefront of organised crime in the East End, Reggie and Ronnie practically owned London with influences in high places and a heinous reputation - in other words, their cocky cockney charm and their fists. From boxers to criminals, the twins led a gang known as ‘The Firm’ who were involved in armed robberies, arson, assaults and murder. In order to cover up their lucrative criminal activities, the twins ran West End night clubs, mixing with Hollywood stars from Judy Garland to Frank Sinatra, often having photos taken with entertainers and politicians, which turned them into celebrities in their own right. As close as the brothers were they both had huge differences in personality and mentality. Reggie was in the criminal business mostly out of need to provide for his family, whereas Ronnie was in it for pure joy and mayhem. There is no doubt that the Krays led a ridiculously dangerous and ludicrous lifestyle, which has caused al sorts of conspiracies to run rampant. There have also been the twin’s own revelations in interviews and books; Ronnie’s book My Story confesses his bisexuality and Reggie opens up with his book Born Fighter about being one half of a criminal double act. As well as books and countless documentaries, there’s already been one feature length film in 1990, The Krays, written by Philip Ridley and directed by Peter Medak. In this movie, the twins were portrayed by Spandau Ballet brothers Gary and Martin Kemp. Though not twins, the Kemp brothers looked very much alike with enough distinct features to set them apart, much like the real twins. Ironically, Gary - the eldest Kemp - played younger twin Ronnie, who is more unpredictable, whilst Martin played it more straight as Reggie. The Krays begins during the 1930’s London, following the twins growing up in the East End with their doting mother. Soon enough, they go from mother-coddled ruffians to influential gangsters in their adult life; thugs with a mother complex. It’s a slightly sinister, gritty drama with classic British humour, tragedy and hooliganism. Much difference can be seen between Medak’s slower-paced drama and Helgeland’s glossy Legend with quick cuts garnished with whimsicality. Helgeland’s knack for writing great repartee is notable and seems to fit perfectly in this sheeny style of the swinging ’60s, revitalising their story and giving it extra energy. Despite these differences, however, it seems that the theme of family relations and tragedy is still very much in the forefront, just as it is in The Krays. Besides the style, for his own telling Helgeland has taken a prominent section of the twin’s lives and centres his film on the relationship between the two brothers. He’s created a lot of tension between them, focusing mostly on Reggie, the elder by 10 minutes and the more cunning, put-together of the two. Though in no way considered soft, Reggie is certainly the calmer of the two as he has to grapple with Ronnie’s unhinged and violent behaviour, while he tries to run their underground business. Ronnie is definitely more of a wild card; we see that Reggie has a tolerance for his absurd behaviour on the pure basis that he’s blood and family, but it seems Ronnie may take his crazy antics over the edge. Controversies will be raised, and the Twins will find themselves in a confrontation with each on more than one occasion. It looks nothing short of a glittery glamourised criminal lifestyle, but after all, that is indeed the life the twins used to lead. The title seems to say it all about the film and the Kray twins, the most infamous underworld thugs in London living it large with a manner of charm and finesse, ‘living like a legend’. A mixture of violence, wit and skewed family values, Legend looks to be a promising and exciting addition to the gangster genre. LEGEND opens in UK cinemas on September 9th.