Legend (2015)

Carry On Up the Krays:





I would have no hesitation in recommending Legend…”

Wait a minute, let me finish:

“I would have no hesitation in recommending Legend as long as you’re the kind of masochist who sits through omnibus editions of Eastenders, says things like ‘I’ll raspberry ripple him’ and enjoys a rousing chorus of ‘Knees up, Mother Brown’, all to the background of a mythologized 60s London.”

The story of the gangster twins is familiar enough and has been told before – rather well, I thought – in Peter Medak’s 1990 film, The Krays.  They were a couple of scumbags from the Ease End of London, Reggie being the violent, relatively sane one and Ronnie being the violent, completely barking mad one. They rose to enormous power in the city whilst inexplicably attracting a celebrity following in their clubs and pubs.

At one point, when Reggie’s wife-to-be spots Joan Collins having a drink, Reg comments: “Yeah, we ‘ad that Barbara Windsor in last week”.

It’s that kind of film.  In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the real life Babs doing a cameo and telling us:

 “Right proper gents they were.  At least it were safe to walk the streets of London back then, know wot I mean?  Not like now.  They might have been vicious sociopathic lunatics but at least they were our lunatics and knew how to treat a lady proper.”

Come to think of it, the ‘Carry On’ star wouldn’t have been out of place with the film’s humour, either – because inexplicably it really is played for laughs. Get a load of ‘raging poofter’ Lord Boothby, straight out of a Benny Hill skit, as a handsome young bloke hands him his gin and bitters:

“Aaaaahhh, lovely, dear boy. Down the hatch! You do like it down the hatch, don’t you?”

Ohhhh, vicar, stop it! You are naughty!

Did I forget to mention that apart from being the totally insane one, Ronnie is also the homosexual one?  Don’t worry, he never stops talking about it, so you’ll quickly get the message:

“I’m a giver, not a receiver.  I mean, I’m not a faggot.”

And just in case you still haven’t got the point, there are two seriously irritating pretty boys accompanying him everywhere. Of course, homosexuality was illegal in 60s London, but I imagine that if you’re likely to have your head nailed to the floor for mentioning it then you leave well enough alone.

Tom Hardy is as good as you would expect in both parts.  In fact, the cast as a whole simply can’t be faulted.  It is an outstanding one, with the great David Thewlis as the Kray’s banker, looking constantly bewildered by every fresh piece of craziness that Ronnie comes out with.  Emily Browning is fine as Frances, Reggie’s mentally fragile wife. (Although having her do the voiceover just doesn’t work.  Sunset Boulevard this ain’t. Know wot I mean?)  And a treat for me is Tara Fitzgerald as Frances’s mother.  I’ve long thought that this woman is one of the most talented and beautiful around, and can’t understand why we don’t see more of her.

As to Christopher Eccleston…I’m not sure what an actor of his caliber is doing here, playing the walk-through part of the copper, ‘Nipper’ Read.  Maybe a lot of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, I don’t know.

No; all blame has to go to American writer and director Brian Helgeland, which in itself is puzzling.  This is the guy who wrote L.A. Confidential and the brilliant Eastwood movie, Mystic River.  What the hell happened here?

And talking of nailing heads to the floor, that reminds me of the other thing that I kept thinking of last night.  It was that old Monty Python take on the Krays, where the paranoid schizophrenic one thinks that he’s being followed around everywhere by a giant hedgehog called Spiny Norman.  And Norman wouldn’t have been out of place here, I’m not kidding you.  At one point and for no discernible reason a whole crowd of gangsters break into a verse or two of ‘Maybe it’s Because I’m a Londoner that I Love London Town.’

I swear, by this time I was on the lookout for Vera Lynn and the White Cliffs of Dover.

And tea!  What the fuck was it with all the tea drinking?  I mean, I know Londoners do love their tea but in this film it’s everywhere.  Just put a bullet through someone’s head in front of seven witnesses?  Have a nice cup of tea, Ron.  Thanks Mum.  This sponge cake is lovely.

And some critics found this violent?  Are they having a laugh?  Well, if you call Tom and Jerry cartoons violent, then yeah…maybe.  There’s a bar fight with the Krays up against half-a-dozen blokes and the punches go off with the earsplitting sound of a cheesy, badly-dubbed 70s Kung Fu movie.  People take the most ferocious beatings and just get up and walk away.  Yeah, violent.  Like the WWF is violent.

Do you know what the best part about last night’s trip to the cinema was?  The trailer for Black Mass.  Please don’t let me be disappointed. Between Trainwreck and Legend that’s two bummers in a row.  The poor old system won’t take another one.

Author: Charley Brady

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