HBO Spotlight: Legend

So to preface, I love biopics. I don’t know what it is, I could just watch documentaries, but there is something about a good biopic that just gets me. I also love British movies and the 1960s so this movie should be a home run for me. I also appreciate the technical skill required to pull off a dual role, so a round of applause must go to Tom Hardy and the director for having the guts to use the same actor as twins.

It is an interesting story overall, as gangster culture (at least to my overall geographically ignorant American mind) is a overwhelming American dominated market. Gangsters and the mafia seem like a very Italian and American kind of deal, and I never thought of the English gangster culture before. The Krays are an interesting crime family, even if it was the just the two of them, and their story is decently entertaining. It’s a bit slow for a gangster movie, and has a lot more bare-knuckle (or on the off chance, brass knuckle) boxing than I expected. I also watched this movie with subtitles, even though they were all speaking English. The accents can get so thick at points that without the help I don’t think I would have figured out what they were saying half the time.

I will say if there is anything that really distinguishes this movie than a typical run of the mill biopic its Tom Hardy. He’s the real Legend here, as he plays the two brothers as completely opposite and intriguing characters. One smart, suave businessman and one brutish potentially schizophrenic muscle man. They really overplay the gay thing with Ron, which sometimes comes off a little clunky, but his character is so socially blunt that it somehow fits within the realm of his personality.

There is one scene where the brothers fight each other that is filmed exceptionally well, utilizing camera angle to make it possible for the same actor to fight each other. It’s interesting to watch, even if it is quite a brutal fight. It was a smart way to make it possible for the same person to just wail on another version of himself.

Still, this movie didn’t have to be 2 hours and 12 minutes long. Boys bonded by blood in the same business as one another. Business troubles almost break them apart. Then one falls in love, almost ruining the brother’s dynamic. It’ s really not a complicated story at the root of it, but they really drag it out.  Then its mostly about Reggie for a while, then its mostly about Ron. It’s just a little too much for a pretty basic story. It’s a good story, but they stretched it out, slowed it down, and made what could be a very stylized but intense gangster story seem boring. I want to know more about them together, but too often it chooses one road or the other and focuses too much on the different routes the two took the business.

Both are sometimes likeable and sometimes detestable, but Tom Hardy has the acting capability to create these two incredibly different characters and make them feel like separate people. Too often directors go for this dual character same actor shtick and it becomes the same person with a minor aesthetic difference that doesn’t create a whole new persona. This one is different. Hardy completely embodies the madness in both men, one subdued under the surface and one exploding forth, uncontrollable and violent. In the end they both reach their breaking points as the two become the same, with uncontrolled anger and ambition that sunk them both.

Amy’s Recommendation: 6/10

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