Brutal British brothers rage on in Legend

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      Starring Tom Hardy. Rated 14A.

      To the British, the Kray twins are more than just the legend(s) of this feebly titled effort. The identical East Enders ruled London’s criminal underworld with a mixture of weird flamboyance and surpassing viciousness, accruing glamour, celebrity, and international connections that made them the darkly alluring obverse of the British Invasion. In recent years, their place inside a loathsome nexus of deviant behaviour enjoyed by the British cultural and political elite—symbolized by the untouchable BBC DJ and serial child abuser Jimmy Savile—has presumably broken a spell that previously had the Krays fixed as folk heroes.

      None of this makes its way into Legend, of course, written and directed by the American Brian Helgeland. I just figured a little context would be nice. Helgeland does at least include one scene, set in the Krays’ swinging, celebrity-packed West End nightclub, that efficiently circumscribes the pact between the decadent wealthy and their psychopathic cockney fixers.

      Otherwise, Legend is really just a Brit Goodfellas with a stunt performance by Tom Hardy as both twins. His Ronnie is a deep-thinking, mouth-breathing savant diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia within seconds of his first (hilarious) appearance. Reggie is the handsome charmer forced to curb his openly bisexual brother’s fantastically violent impulses, while trying to accommodate his bedazzled young wife, Frances (Emily Browning), who narrates.

      It was anything but a grand, if doomed, romance. In reality the marriage was never consummated. Helgeland’s film naturally plays fast and loose with all the facts, which probably matters less than usual when you’ve got this generation’s most exciting actor as both of your leads, blazing through a postcard version of ’60s London and even kicking the shit out of himself at one point. The Krays’ older brother, Charlie, is never mentioned, while mum Violet (Jane Wood) was considerably more present in 1990’s The Krays. Helgeland also glosses over the fact that Reggie stabbed Jack “the Hat” McVitie to death with such ferocity that his liver had to be flushed down a toilet, but still.

      Movie violence—it’s all just a lark, innit?