Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Review: Legend

Year: 2015
Director: Brian Helgeland
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Duffy, Christopher Ecclestone, Chazz Palminteri

Synopsis is here

Emily Browning has recently spoken out about the discrepancy in women's roles in comparison to Mens. The actress rightly questions why we see so many flat female characters who don't "act like human beings" and has called for female roles with greater autonomy and there's many out there who would wholeheartedly agree. However, in watching Browning's one note portrayal of Frances Shea; tragic wife of Reggie Kray, in Legend, one may have to search elsewhere for the thorough portrayals that the actress yearns for.

It's easy to slight Browning's performance. From the dubious cockney accent to the horridly dry narration that flutters in and out of the film, but it's not the actress's fault, although she has been better. There's a feeling that the material has left her out to dry somewhat. Browning may be riling against the vapid "hot babe" model that we witness constantly in films, but her performance has Frances never really shifts a gear. She looks glamourous when she has to be, and distressed when she doesn't have to look good. Browning narrates the film in order for the audience to see it from her point of view. However the screenplay by writer/director Brian Helgeland is a rather sour piece that's more interested in informing us rather than feeling anything. Constantly the film will joylessly tell us what's on screen rather than allowing the audience to infer for themselves via the camera or performances. It jars with the films already bumpy rhythms. Instead of seeing Browning emote fully, the voice over is quick to tell us how to feel. 

Browning, as well as much of the top quality cast, is pushed to the edges by a dominating Tom Hardy, who holds dual roles as both the infamous Kray twins, Reggie and Ronnie. This is a showcase for the charismatic actor who takes what could have been a cheap gimmick (it uses some Social Network style image trickery) and puts forth two remarkable displays. Reggie has the cocksure swagger, while Ronnie is clouded by intense paranoia. The beauty of Hardy's performances are in the small details and differences. Even the poise and murmurs from either brother is vastly different. In terms of performance it always feels like you're watching two different people. 

Mentioning Tom Hardy's superlative displays, only makes the rest of the film pale even more in comparison. Minus Hardy, and Legend is a rather listless affair. Much like how the brothers hid their brutal crimes around a veneer of celebrity, the film does a great job of hiding a lot of the nastiness that ensued. Legend enjoys claiming that it's coming from the eyes of those who knew the brothers, but the film often seems so preoccupied with infusing a Goodfellas-lite charm to the brothers, that it forgets just how well the best gangster films balance the ugliness with the romance. Helgeland clearly has certain cinematic influences on his mind in his visualisation of this, and the film holds enough humour and brutality that may appease casual gangster fans. However, for the most part, Legend is over egged, overlong and lacks the kind of energy that would make it stand out in a line up.