“Legend”, directed by Brian Helgeland, purports to be a British mafia movie, set in London in the 1960s, with all its innocence, given the Beatles, and the like. It’s based on the book “The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins” by John Pearson.
Tom Hardy plays both identical twins, Ronnie and Reggie Kray. We’ve seen this idea before, in 2001 when Nicholas Cage played twin screenwriter brothers in “Adaptation” by Spike Jonze.
In this film, the two identical twins are very different people and usually are dressed differently. As the film opens, Reggie helps Ronnie get out of a prison-like mental hospital. Indeed, the film has some dialogue that panders to psychiatric theories popular in the 60s. Reggie is an ex-boxer, and now a figure in the underworld. He is sane enough to be able to run the criminal business, whereas Ronnie is too psychopathic. That alone is a bit of an irony. Emily Browning plays Reggie’s eventual wife, Frances Shea, and provides narration for the for. “The world isn’t bad or good, it just is”, she says, near the end. Also, “Do you like being a gangster?” As the DVD “making of” featurette says, you can be a hero of a film and still be a bad person to the rest of the world. But was “the Godfather” really evil?
The film appeared in the fall and wasn’t in theaters long, so it wasn’t terribly connecting for American audiences. And it’s long, at 131 minutes.
The official site is here. It’s odd that Universal itself, rather than Focus Features, is the official distributor; Working Title and Studio Canal also produced what is still a big and expensive arthouse film, showing off Tom Hardy.
Wikipedia attribution link for photo of Thames River by Diliff, under CCSA 3.0