Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Legend

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: 
Louie: "Should I shoot him gangland style or execution style?"
Fat Tony: "Listen to your heart."
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two and a half hedgehogs out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis:
 Brothers Doug and Dinsdale Piranha rule 1960s London using brutal violence and withering sarcasm. Meanwhile, they're pursued throughout by the intrepid detective Harry "Snapper" Organs.

Wait, that's the plot to a Monty Python sketch. Eh, close enough.

Tagline: "Power. Fear. Family."

Better Tagline: "Kray One and Kray Two, Kray Two and Kray One, they can kill anything anything anything under the sun." 

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The world, or the East End of London anyway, is the oyster of former boxer Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) and his mentally unwell brother Ronnie (Tom Hardy). Through a combination of Reggie's charm and business acumen and Ronnie's psychosis, the pair become infamous by taking over the local rackets and subsequently famous enough to attract the attention of the American Mob, in the form of Angelo Bruno (Chazz Palminteri) as well as detective sergeant Leonard "Nipper" Read (Christopher Eccleston), who is obsessed with bringing the brothers to justice.

"Critical" Analysis:
  Tom Hardy's having a hell of a year. Child 44, the superlative Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant and now this. And while his talent has never (or rarely, if you remember This Means War) been in question, there's not much to recommend Legend beyond his occasionally self-indulgent scenery gobbling.

We've seen this problem before, and recently (Black Mass): the repetitiveness of gangster movies. And the formula is no different here: rise to power, brief period of enjoyment coupled with delusion of continued prosperity, followed by the inevitable downfall, which is either messy (Ă  la Scarface) or anticlimactic (Goodfellas). About the only thing writer/director Brian Helgeland does to mix things up is get the cars and music right.

You can be forgiven for expecting more from the guy who wrote 976-EVIL. Oh, and also L.A. Confidential and Mystic River. In this case, unfortunately, the optimism's misplaced. The visuals are on point, and the script captures the enjoyable pathos curious to sociopathic criminals. But Helgeland has yet to prove he's as talented behind a camera as he is with Final Draft.

Things get interesting when Reggie goes back to jail for six months, and Hardy gets a chance to spray saliva with abandon as Ronnie. Predictably, psychopaths who might also be schizophrenic aren't adept at running a criminal enterprise, although the ensuing fisticuffs when Reggie is released would almost be funny if not for their brutality.

Still, Hardy is great. It's getting tiresome to praise the guy so much, but it's also been something else to watch him these last few years, playing everything from lower-income Brooklyn (The Drop) to guttural Aussie (MM:FR) to whatever the hell Bane was. Without him, Legend would be a chore.

And I almost forgot Emily Browning, who plays Reggie's doomed wife, Frances Shea (oh, don't act surprised). She soldiers on with what she's given, but as you may have guessed, the female roles in your typical organized crime epic aren't exactly of the meaty variety. David Thewlis is similarly underused as Kray business associate Leslie Payne, and Eccleston's casting is also largely pointless, as Read spends most of the movie channeling Dean Bitterman (REG_GIIIEEEE!). 

Legend is, despite a fantastic double-performance by Hardy, anything but. Possibly more frustrating than seeing him wasted in a mediocre film is knowing how great it could have been in the hands of a better director. 

Legend is in theaters today. Dinsdale? Dinsdaaaale.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar