Monthly Archives: November 2015

Film Review: Legend

Film Review: Legend

Riveting Hardy performances, but skewed female point of view

The names Reggie and Ronnie Kray aren’t immediately familiar to many Americans, but it’s a different story on the other side of the pond. They’ve inspired books, songs, stage plays, and TV shows. Google “Kray Twins,” and you’ll find all manner of stories and articles. It seems everyone in England knows the Krays. Either that or they know of someone who does.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the inseparable Kray twins ran a crime empire from East End London. At the same time, the brothers were careful to project an air of public decorum. The operative word here is public.Legend Reggie Talks Vegas

Reggie and Ronnie always appeared dressed in expensive suits and treated women (especially their mother Violet) with great courtesy. Behind the scenes, they acted like most other gangland figures you’ve read about or seen in movies. One thing set them apart-a level of coordination between Reggie and Ronnie that bordered on the telepathic.

Brian Helgeland’s new film Legend is an adaptation of a book by John Pearson called The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall Of The Kray Twins. This is a very good film that could have been great. As is, it’s a red-hot rush, largely due to Tom Hardy’s dynamic performances as the two Krays.Legend Reggie at Frances' House

Helgeland and cinematographer Dick Pope (Mr. Turner) have done an extremely good job from the technical side, often placing Hardy-as-Reggie and Hardy-as-Ronnie seamlessly within the same frame.

David Thewlis contributes a strong performance as Leslie Payne, the Kray’s beleaguered accountant and front man. Taron Egerton is quite good as Mad Teddy Smith, Ronnie’s lover. Although Emily Browning is underused as Reggie’s wife Frances, she has a couple of effective scenes with Hardy (in particular, the one where they meet).Legend Reggie and Frances

Legend also benefits from astute musical choices by Carter Burwell (O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Along with the look and sound of 1960s London, Helgeland also manages to recreate the sassy innocence of the period.

In a Q and A at the Austin Film Festival, Helgeland spoke about this film and what he hoped to convey in telling its story. He wanted to show the central conflict as a triangle involving Reggie, Frances, and Ronnie. Reggie finds himself torn between his twin and his wife.Legend Reggie and Francis Gamble

Helgeland also mentioned doing research work in London and asking people from the Kray’s circle about Frances. Everyone seemed to give the same answer, “She was a pretty girl.” I’d guess this intrigued Helgeland and may even have led to his decision to give Frances’ character the voiceover in his script.

It’s not essential that the voiceover character be critical to the main plot line, as Helgeland’s script for LA Confidential proved. However, the character does need a distinctive voice and point of view. It also helps if the character talks about things that the character could reasonably be expected to know. In other words, don’t do a voiceover by a five-year-old child with citations from the IRS Code.

Voiceovers in the Legend script have Frances talking about the Kray’s main rivals in town, whether the casino made money, and Leslie Payne’s function in the organization. I’d be extremely surprised if Reggie told her those things or even wanted her to know them.Legend Ronnie and Friend

What’s more, voiceovers need to match the character delivering them. The character of Frances was repeatedly shown to be unfocused and nearing a breakdown. Frances in the voiceovers sounded poised throughout. The more of those voiceovers I heard, the more I disconnected from this film.

Phillip Medak’s 1990 film The Krays, while not nearly as stylish as Legend, does a much better job representing Frances’ side of the story. There you get a sense of the unending criticism and regimentation that caused the fragile young woman to unravel. In Legend, you’re only given a few hints and the major events.

Even so, Legend is a film worth seeing. You may walk into the theater unfamiliar with the Krays, but Tom Hardy will make sure you’ll never forget them.

Theme: Brothers First

Related Posts: Film Appreciation: Rocco And His Brothers  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-rocco-and-his-brothers-2/

Brothers First: List For Week Ending November 29, 2015  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/brothers-first-list-for-week-ending-november-29-2015/

 

 

Film Appreciation: Rocco And His Brothers

Film Appreciation: Rocco And His Brothers

Luchino Visconti’s 1960 film Rocco And His Brothers is, first and foremost, about the importance of tradition. A family from southern Italy moves to Milan, hoping to find work there. The film tells the story of the family’s five brothers-Vincenzo, Simone, Rocco, Ciro, and Luca. Vincenzo (Spiro’s Focás), the oldest, came to Milan before theContinue Reading

Brothers First: List For Week Ending November 29, 2015

Brothers First: List For Week Ending November 29, 2015

The films on this week’s list all involve complicated relationships between brothers. In Legend, twins Reggie and Ronnie differ over operations of their crime empire. Rocco Parondi of Rocco And HIs Brothers finds that his sacrifices for his brothers aren’t always understood or appreciated. At the beginning of Get Carter, Jack Carter’s brother Frank diesContinue Reading

Film Review: Victoria

Film Review: Victoria

Extended shots can do quite a lot to establish mood or tell the story of a film. Just as an example, I’ll use a clip from Goodfellas. Notice how the camera emphasizes Henry’s attempts to impress Karen with his charm and cool. Those few minutes give us the best possible view of Henry’s Goodfella lifestyle.Continue Reading

Film Appreciation: Russian Ark

Film Appreciation: Russian Ark

True confession-I put off watching Russian Ark. Everything I’d read about it made Russian Ark sound pretentious and arty and glacially slow. We’ve had the ability to stream it on Netflix for a while, and I just couldn’t make the effort. Well, I was wrong. My husband and I talked ourselves into giving it aContinue Reading

Highlights For Week Ending November 22, 2015

SILENT COMEDIES AT SILVER SPRING MD’S AFI SILVER THEATER   On November 20, Composer and film historian Ben Model accompanies rare silent comedies from the Museum of Modern Art and the Marcel Perez Collection. He’ll be joined by Steve Massa, author and film historian. On November 21, Ben accompanies The Family Secret and Peter Pan.Continue Reading

Film Review: Brooklyn

Film Review: Brooklyn

John Crowley’s Brooklyn is a movie set in the 1950s, and it has the feel of a film from the 1950s. Novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) wrote the adaptation of Colm Tólbín’s novel, but this film is defined and illuminated by Saoirse Ronan. She gives a star-making performance as Eilis Lacey, a young woman who’sContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: The Italian

Film Appreciation: The Italian

The Italian (1915) is a film that deserves more attention than it gets. It premiered a month before The Birth Of A Nation, widely thought to be the first feature film. The Italian uses camera techniques (for example, close-ups) often said to have originated with The Birth. Although The Italian does have elements of ethnicContinue Reading