Friday, January 29, 2016

Just Watch Bronson Twice, or Legend with Tom Hardy as The Kray Twins

Tom Hardy is one of my favorite modern actors, he’s bagged some of the most memorable roles of the decade including Bane, Max Rockatansky, Bronson and of course, Handsome Bob from RocknRolla.  And also Shinzon from Star Trek Nemesis (2002) because I’m a big trekkie nerd at heart.
I’ve also been fond of the British Gangster genre ever since Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998).  I love Cockney rhyming slang; trouble and strife, apples and pears and tell me no porkies.  I’ve also seen The Krays (1990) starring actual twins Gary and Martin I Know This Much is True Kemp. Finally, I’ve known all about the Kray twins ever since I first heard The Last of the Famous International Playboys, which I never get tired of listening to. 
Bearing all this in mind, how could Legend starring Tom Hardy in a dual role as London gangsters Ron and Reggie Kray not be one of my favorite movies of 2015, if not of all time?  Why was I left disappointed and indifferent after I watched it?  Let’s explore how the exact same elements that make a film memorable can make it crash and burn.
Actors playing identical twins is inherently narcissistic, and therefore quite popular in Hollywood, from Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap remake (1998), Nicolas Cage in Adaptation (2002), Christian Bale in The Prestige (2006) and even Jean Claude Van Damme in Double Impact (1991).  Two of the best performances in these twin-acting challenges come from Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers (1988) and the great Bette Davis starring in the original Dead Ringer (1964).  And now we can add Tom Hardy to the list.
Legend (2015) is crammed with period correct London East End scenes and swinging 60’s fashions,  the tie clips and slim lapels with share screen time with cigarettes and brass knuckles.  Emily Browning supplies the narration and exposition like it’s a British Goodfellas (1990).  This is the film’s first mistake; her accent is a tad posh for the Lower East End.  You don’t need someone sounding like Eliza Doolittle or Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, but these details make all the difference when you’re setting a tone and telling a story.
It’s a great cast with a not-so great script.  You don’t care about any of these characters and are not invested in anyone’s dramatic arc.  It’s confusing; is this movie a love story, or twin gangsters building an East End empire of crime, or their downfall by a Scotland Yard Inspector? Plot is a delicate balance between story and character and by servicing the three story lines equally everything suffers; the sum is not greater than its parts and the movie collapses under its own weight.
Christopher Eccleston, the Ninth Doctor, is wasted as Police Inspector Reed.  Tom Hardy supplies an adequate performance, but it’s not cheeky, compelling or charismatic like Bronson (2008), which remains Tom Hardy’s greatest performance and film.

There is the trademark casual brutality and violence you have come to expect in a British Gangster film, including a great fight scene at the Pig and Whistle, but ultimately you’re left with a sense of admiration for Guy Ritchie for making this genre look so effortless and fun. You can’t blame Tom Hardy; you have to blame the director.  Film is the director’s medium, just as theater belongs to the actor and TV is the domain of the writer.  Brian Hegelund, who wrote LA Confidential (1997), Mystic River (2003) and Man on Fire (2004), is no stranger to violent drama and should have had little problem handling the Kray Twins.  It could be as simple as he was born in the US and wasn’t paying attention to little things like accents, but those tiny mistakes add up over time and create bad pictures.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of bad pictures.  Some movies are so bad they circle around and magically become great.  (I’m looking at you, Troll 2 1990).  But when you have an A-list cast, a big Hollywood budget and a subject like the Kray Twins and you still make something mediocre, well that’s just disappointing.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.