REVIEW: Legend

24 11 2015

The term “Scorsese lite” gets bandied about in critical discourse often (I’ve used it to describe both “Black Mass” and “Blood Ties“), but if anyone needed a textbook definition, they should probably look at Brian Helgeland’s “Legend.” Here is a film with all the style and gang violence of “GoodFellas” with none of its poise or polish. Helgeland is all talk, no walk.

At one of the many points during the film’s bloated 131 minute runtime when my mind drifted away from the action, I came to realize what a deceptively difficult act “GoodFellas” was to execute. Henry Hill’s saga essentially has no major character obstacles (other than the law), no major goals nor anything driving the action … and yet it’s totally compelling and engaging the whole way through. “Legend,” despite a “Parent Trap”-style dual performance from Tom Hardy as the Kray Twins, just runs around in well-styled circles to the tunes of a great jukebox.

The Krays are supposedly the most feared men in London, but you can hardly tell from the movie, which seems to take that fact for granted. “Legend” mostly consists of brotherly bickering between Ronnie, the more unstable one, and Reggie, the one with interest in conventional goals like getting married. Hardy has proven himself great at exposing the homoeroticism that lies dormant in the male propensity for violence, and the Krays are another great showcase of this gift. Too bad the film insists on turning these undercurrents into such obvious overtones.

And, oddly enough, Helgeland chooses to frame their story through the narration of Reggie’s wife, Emily Browning’s Frances. It seems like a choice meant to rebut some of the sexism that plagues gangster films, though she winds up feeling like a token character. Her character is of little consequence to the narrative – heck, “Legend” probably does not even pass the Bechdel Test. Worse yet, this is just skimming the surface of basic screenwriting issues from a writer who won an Oscar for his “L.A. Confidential” script. C / 2stars

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