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Genre Crime

The Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, are two of the most notorious gangsters in history. The English crime bosses operated in the Lower East End of London in the '50s and '60s and were involved in armed robberies, racketeering, arson, assaults and murder. It's surprising that in an age where Guy Ritchie Brit gangster movies are revered that these infamous twins haven't been given more of the spotlight until now.

Before Legend, it was Spandau Ballet's Kemp twins, Gary and Martin, who undertook the roles in 1990's The Krays. While far from quintessential, it stood as the lone biopic crime drama about the exploits of these larger-than-life characters. Perhaps it was a casting issue? Thanks to advances in split-screen effects and Armie Hammer's role as twins in The Social Network, it was decided Tom Hardy would play both Ronnie and Reggie Kray.

Legend is first and foremost an acting showcase for Tom Hardy, whose recent run of form hasn't garnered the nominations he rightfully deserves. The Academy has doubled performance nominations before, so perhaps there's some sense to getting the attention he deserves for a dual performance. It's the sort of make-or-break gimmick that could cement or obliterate a movie, and as you'd imagine Hardy manages to pull it off in style.

While he's almost always on-screen, there's never a dull moment with Hardy flitting between the smooth, grounded, lean and straight Reggie or the crazed, impulsive, chunkier and gay Ronnie. They're twins, but they're worlds apart with Reggie trying to keep an out-of-control Ronnie in check, a duty that weighs in on him as things get progressively more and more reckless. This is where's Legend's tension lies as the two brothers contrast and butt heads along the way.

Writer-director, Brian Helgeland, is known for crime dramas such as L.A. Confidential, Payback and Man on Fire. While he swathes Legend in the finesse of L.A. Confidential's period piece crime epic, it's more in line with the fierce, street-brawling swagger of wise guy vendettasĀ Payback and Man on Fire as he essentially unleashes not one, but two bulls in a China shop. As such, the narrative moves like a series of flashbacks to some of the Krays "finest" moments.

There's a special focus on the nature of their twin relationship, its duality and the context of their organised crime, which make it strangely compelling, deferring to a romantic relationship between Reggie and Frances Shea, played quite demurely by a real "doll face" in Emily Browning.

Legend carries many genre tags... moving from human interest biopic to crime drama and weaving in and out of comedy, romance and action in the process. It's an unusual beast, falling into the well-worn grooves of a Brit gangster flick with ultra-violence, coarse language, smack talk, brawls and thick accents but coming up for air to invest in an unhealthy, yet budding romance and getting by on the double shotgun gimmick.

The swirling story line gets tangled as the characters trip over it as typical gangster routines play out. It remains fresh by virtue of its crazy co-lead chemistry, different thanks to Ronnie's sexuality, entertaining for its refusal to be pigeon-holed and intriguing as we rollick along a history of seemingly unstoppable organised crime in London. It's not for the faint-hearted, but won't disappoint fans of the suave Brit gangster crime genre.

The bottom line: Entertaining

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