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Film / Legend (2015)

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"It was time for the Krays to enter gangster legend."

Legend is a 2015 biopic drama/black tragicomedy about the notorious 50s/60s London Gangster twins, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, directed by Brian Helgeland. It is most notable for having one of the most technically distinctive, impressive and physical Acting for Two performances committed to the screen, with Tom Hardy playing his own twin. Taron Egerton also stars as Ronnie's young lover.

Narrated by Reggie's wife Frances Shea (played by Emily Browning), the film covers the golden years of their criminal reign, and the subsequent decline. Frances retrospectively describes Reggie as "the gangster prince of the east end", and Ronnie as "a one man mob". It includes the meeting, courtship and marriage of the couple, the brothers' efforts to shut down their competition, deals with the American Mafia, their police investigation and eventual Villainous Breakdown which leads to their downfall. Focusing primarily on Reggie's attempts to keep his unhinged brother's psychopathic tendencies at bay, and placate Frances as she struggles to reconcile her feelings for him with her understanding of their line of work.


The film is also a Period Piece, depicting a different era in which gangsters (fronting as legitimate business but really operating as "firms") could openly walk around with weapons and intimidate each other, but would also generally respect members of the public, offering them charity and inviting the more affluent to nightclubs and private parties. Interestingly, Ronnie is openly gay which doesn't temper his criminal traits though. What does is his bizarrely, rarely seen sweet side. Nevertheless, the movie doesn't shy from the uglier side of their lives, and the tragic conclusion. It distinguishes itself from the earlier 1990 film The Krays by only concentrating on their heyday, and less on their earlier life and relationships with immediate family.

Nothing to do with the 1985 film of the same name.


Warning! Unmarked spoilers ahoy!

Legend contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Sexuality: Real Life Ronnie Kray actually identified as bisexual. The film portrays Ronnie as strictly gay.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Reggie, taking a jovial concern for people in his East End home streets, charming the socks off of Frances and treating his opposition (both criminal and police) with mock courtesy along with some genuine respect. It doesn't mean he won't beat the shit out of his enemies if they take the piss, however.
    • Ronnie, not so much. He's more of a psychopath, albeit he too does show some fleeting charm and affection for close people in his life (which aren't many).
    • Angelo Bruno, with big emphasis on "Affably", basically to the point you forget he's a bad man who has been involved in his share of hard crime back in Philadelphia. He's very accommodating to the boys, especially Reg, and more than willing to negotiate. In real life, he was known as the Gentle Don.
  • The Alcoholic: Reg. When the marriage starts falling apart, he drinks more and starts abusing Fran. When she dies, he "drinks himself senseless". And his murder of McVitie at the end is probably heavily alcohol fueled as well.
    • The patriarch, Charles David Kray Sr. is only present for a comedic cameo, and he's shown offering Fran a hipflask.
    • Downplayed for Ron. While its clear that he's quite drunk in a few scenes, the overriding factor is his insanity, and alcohol likely had little or no part in how that turned out.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Frances for Reggie. As is typical for this sort of film, she wants him to reform, gives him several chances but sadly it doesn't work out for either of them.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Ronnie pays Jack "The Hat" McVitie, a guy who's evidently not a good fit as a contract killer, to off their ex-business manager Leslie. He has to snort a popper just to work up the nerve before going through with it. Leslie is able to effect a Gun Struggle and wind up only getting shot non-fatally in the leg, and even almost get a shot off on the killer. This precipitates a chain of events which lead not only to the guy's murder by Reggie, but the downfall of the gang.
  • Badass Gay: Ron. One of the hardest, most psychopathic, bruiser gay characters in cinema.
  • Bar Brawl: The Richardsons offer a peace talk, but it appears the Krays have been set up when it's only them and the many pub patrons are actually muscle sent to "knock the granny out of them". In reality, the boys have anticipated this and are ready to fight back.
  • Berserk Button: Of course, various examples for Ronnie, but chief are insulting his sexuality, and implying that he isn't running the business well or that other, non-Krays should be allowed to take the helm. For Reggie, insulting Frances, as Ron and Jack McVitie learn to their cost (the latter fatally).
  • Black Comedy: The dominant tone of the first two acts, particularly with regard to Ron's brutality and bad-for-business outbursts. Also with the shocking, but scarily hilarious London Gangster violence in general. Gradually replaced by a more serious mood as the cops start to close in on them, Frances leaves Reggie and the firm falls apart.
  • Blood Knight: Ron. He cares more about getting into fights and gang wars and throwing his weight around than actually making money. When Leslie Payne suggests to the Krays that their name is becoming a brand that people fear which means they don't have to use as much violence to keep people in line, Ron replies that he'd still like to use violence anyway.
  • But Not Too Gay: Reggie and Frances share several prolonged kisses, while Ronnie gets no onscreen action, even with his primary love interest, Teddy, who's seen flirting with him and is twice suggested to have spent the night.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jack "The Hat" McVitie. Every time he's onscreen something bad happens to him, culminating in his gruesome death at Reggie's hands.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Nipper. Wants badly to take the Krays down, but only via legal means.
  • Camp Gay: To contrast Ronnie, his boytoy Edward "Mad Teddy" Smith is fey and limp wristed. He's also crazy himself, though.
  • Car Fu: Reggie gets run down and thrown off his feet by Cornell under orders by the Richardsons. He tells him to fuck off and the gang war is officially underway.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ron is one, exemplified in his personal ambition to turn the tiny town of Enugu, Nigeria into a bustling utopia. He intends to do this with an initial investment of £50,000, a figure which is simultaneously too paltry to envisage any major improvement (even in a poor African backwater, and accounting for inflation) and yet too expensive for the relatively modest profits of the Krays' businesses for their associates to countenance. It causes their manager Leslie Payne to recklessly mock him, leading to problems later.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • The Krays are willing to use any form of melee weapons to even the odds against their rivals. However, being teenage boxers, they're equally as prone to rely on their mitts. And during the bar brawl, Ron fools the mooks into thinking he's left Reg to fend for himself. He actually sneaks back in quietly while Reg describes him doing just that ("A paranoid schizophrenic walks into a pub...") as a distraction to cause maximum surprise when they start fighting back.
    • Reggie pioneered the notorious "cigarette punch", where a guy is decked with a fag in his mouth, having been offered a smoke by Reg himself. This loosens the jaw and makes it more likely to break, along with any teeth. While he tends to do this to his subordinates as punishment, rather than to his opponents, it's still a dirty yet effective trick.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Reggie's central dilemma is that his loyalty is split between three characters and their needs for him. His dear brother Ronnie, who wants him to stay his twin gangster kingpin of London, and is a chaotic figure. His love interest Frances, who wants him to go completely legit. He simply can't placate either of the two when trying to balance their black and white needs. And in the middle, his business adviser Leslie, who advocates for a Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club approach where violence is used much less frequently, in line with the Mafia (or at least, the Philadelphia mob led by Angelo). Epitomised by the following exchange:
    • Reggie: My loyalty to my brother is how I measure myself. Frances: What about your loyalty to me?
  • Country Matters: Comes with the territory in the 50s/60s classic era for London Gangsters.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Literally for Ron, and metaphorically for both twins. The Richardsons fake a meeting under the cover of a peace talk in a neutral pub. It's quickly obvious that their mooks are there to fuck the Krays up instead. But the Krays have anticipated this. Ron expresses disgust that these pansy gangsters have shown up without weapons (he was looking forward to a proper shootout!) and storms out, apparently leaving Reg to fend for himself. But he sneaks back in and both use equaliser weapons to fuck the mooks' shit up and then some.
  • Curbstomp Battle: The Richardson gang should have known better than to go up against the champion amateur boxers Krays (and deranged paranoid schizophrenic Ron), even with a 6:1 superiority in numbers.
  • Death Glare: Ronnie towards the barmaid witness who's been asked to point out the killer at a police lineup. Not surprisingly, she pretends the culprit isn't there.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: Reg is forced to do time and the prison guards gleefully take the opportunity to unleash a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. They drag him to his cell and slam the door closed. Beaten unrecognisably, he begs them to stop and for a glass of water. The duty guard mocks him to the other prisoners and brings it over. While distracted, Reg takes the guard's handcuffs and chains him to the cell bars, smashing him back with his truncheon and possibly breaking his arm too.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: This was a time when being out of the closet was a major deal, and so it's more than likely that Ronnie's aggressive nature is a defence mechanism and a means of asserting his power in a hetero-dominated underworld. He may actually have been bisexual, however.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Ron was known to rape pretty boys (both in and out of prison) and keep a cabal of male concubines as part of his criminal entourage. The former aspect is downplayed, but the latter is clearly in play. He even has scandalous affairs with politicians of the day, and it's partly this which helps prevent them from being prosecuted at first (because an election is coming and the government have to do damage limitation). Also, of course, he's a violent, crazy bastard.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Part of the cover up ordered by Reg after his brother shoots Cornell.
  • Dreadful Musician: Played for laughs. Egged on by Teddy, Ronnie is taking the piss out of the jazz musicians and artlessly farts around on a trumpet. Some of the club audience find it funny too, before being decisively insulted by his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Driven to Suicide: Double subverted for Frances. For those who have seen the 1990 movie, or know the rumours regarding her death, it seems that the Foreshadowing with sleeping pills and other medication is designed to set up her eventual suicide as a Red Herring. So this portion of the audience expects her to actually die by Ronnie's hand, as rumoured by way of a cellmate of Reggie's. But in the end, the film does go with the suicide by pills route.
  • Dual Wielding: Ron with a pair of hammers, Reg with a pair of brass knuckles. Both in the same brawl.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Downplayed relative to the 1990 film, but still there. Ronnie, while not particularly distraught after murdering one of the Richardsons, still decides to go to his mother's old place and invite his friends for a cake and some tea as a cooldown. He's very kind and loving towards her. For Reg's part, he also greets her warmly and attempts to keep the terrible news from her ears.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Despite being more than willing to join Ron in bashing the shit out of the Richardson's mooks with hammers and brass knuckles, Reg still cringes slightly when he sees his brother destroying kneecaps after the point where any of their enemies could fight back. He's also appalled by Ron's assault on Leslie Payne, and his impulsive slaying of George Cornell in front of a pub full of witnesses.
  • Gayngster: Ronnie is the real life hardman progenitor of this trope, after all. Also, he has two lapdogs who lean more towards Camp Gay.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Along with his Wacky Marriage Proposal, Reg gives Fran a flash convertible as a birthday present. However, its undermined by the fact that he won't teach her to drive then and there, because of course he has his business to get back to. He also later offers to take her to Ibiza, but in the end it isn't enough to change her mind.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: During their all-out fight, Ron lobs a pair of bottles at Reg, managing to accidentally hit an innocent bystander in the crossfire. In turn, Reg drags Ron's shirt over his face and smashes another one over his head to end the fight (in the "snap him out of it" sense).
    • Intimidating a club owner on Ron's behalf, Teddy obnoxiously smashes up dozens of bottles and glasses on the bar, and Holt smashes another bottle as a weapon to make the threat even more obvious.
  • Groin Attack: During Ron's assault with the hammers, he eye-wincingly batters one into a mook's crotch. Later, during their no-holds-barred fight, he squeezes Reggie's bollocks, causing him to stand up on a ledge in agony. Lampshaded: "You don't go for another man's crown jewels!"
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: Averted. While we don't see any man-on-man activity, Ron is seen spanking a sub with a carpet beater, and Mad Teddy, one of his boytoys, suggestively walks away from his caravan when Reg comes to introduce him to Frances.
  • Hanging Judge: Charlie Richardson plays this role in his gang's Kangaroo Court. Fittingly, as he's one of the leaders the firm is named after.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Reg when he realises how badly he's hurt Fran, and even more so when she kills herself.
  • Hellhole Prison: Reggie is thrown into one for a short sentence. The guards beat him horrifically, but the other prisoners verbally support him. Despite the lead warden mocking them for supporting a guy who can be broken, Reg turns the tables and beats him back.
  • Hero Antagonist: The police task force working against the Kray firm, lead by the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist Nipper, who at one point suffers from being implicated by a frame-up photograph with the twins right there in their main nightclub.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Several examples.
    • Reggie decks McVitie with a cigarette punch. Understandably, the man curses in pain. Reggie shoots back "Don't you swear in my pub!". Despite dropping several F-bombs against him moments before.
    • Ronnie doesn't see the irony in asking why Reggie killed McVitie. He responds with bemusement to the act, as if its only him who should have the power to kill useless people.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag:
    • Ron and Reg. Both have slicked-back hair, but Ronnie's is longer while Reggie's has a more sculpted appearance. Ronnie is bespectacled, his brother isn't. Ron is slightly heavyset, and Reg has a more muscular build. Along with other subtle physical differences, such as Reg having distinct forehead wrinkles, and Ron having a tendency to leave his lip open while speaking. And his particular speech patterns/impediment. As one reviewer said, it's all part of Tom Hardy's efforts to play a pair who are both very recognisably related but yet also clearly different. Ron even has a mole on his neck which his brother doesn't have!
    • Lampshaded, somewhat self-deprecatingly, by Ronnie.
  • Improvised Weapon: Ronnie uses a pair of claw hammers as an equaliser against the Richardsons. He also apparently uses them to fool them into thinking he's got a pair of guns under his jacket, causing them to back off at first. Contrast with Reggie's more deliberate use of a pair of golden knuckledusters.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: The Mafia, and what Reggie aspires to turn the London firm into.
  • Lover and Beloved: Sort of a dark twist on this with Ron and his lapdogs (he's not much older than them, but he's definitely burlier and more rugged). No love involved, just lust — ostensibly, at first. There are hints later on that Ron and foremost love interest Teddy harbour some deeper feelings for one another.
  • Kangaroo Court: Disturbingly implemented by the Krays' enemies, the Richardson brothers (aka the Torture Gang), complete with a jury, a judge and a solicitor who barely sticks up for his "client". They hang the poor bloke upside-down and the "prosecution" decks him several times in the face to find out about the Krays' operations in their own turf.
  • Mask of Sanity: Early on, an enforcer coerces Ron's therapist to have him declared sane and therefore released from the asylum. The only people fooled are the board; apparently this was before oversight and multiple psychiatric assessments were the norm. His therapist is furious with this turn of events and tries to minimise damage by telling Reg to make sure he takes medication regularly. This doesn't really take.
  • Mic Drop: Ron after his devastating insults to the club crowd.
  • Mob War: Between the Krays and the Richardsons, which is introduced in the first act and comes to a head by the finale.
  • Moral Myopia: The Prime Minister is more than happy to see compromising photos of Tory figures with the Krays, but is horrified to see ministers from his own Labour cabinet in similar circumstances.
  • My Beloved Smother: Elsie to Frances, arguably for her own good as it turns out. Violet seems less smothering, but still very doting towards the Kray boys.
  • Not So Different: Played with. Detective Leonard "Nipper" Read says this of himself and Reggie, reminding him that they both came from poor backgrounds and started off in amateur youth boxing. However, he emphasises that these things didn't turn him into a thief. Reg shoots back by reminding him that the real difference is that he works for the cops, and therefore has rules. Then the twins drive the point home by forcing Nipper into a photo with them, which ruins his standing in the force and takes him off the case for a time.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws:
    • It doesn't get much worse than Ron Kray as a brother-in-law, who's both intimidating and insulting to the lovely Frances. And that's putting aside his criminality and mental health issues. He does have a softer side for her, though. They mutually see each other as someone who is trying to take Reg away from their idealised version of himself; Reg the twin gangland don, and Reggie the doting, gone-straight husband.
    • Both brothers are frustrated by her mother, Elsie Shea. She tries to prevent her from dating and marrying Reg. And she wears black to the wedding, as if it were a funeral, and refuses to sing, much to Ron's fury. Of course, she blames Reg for causing Frances' death, quite understandably.
  • Only Sane Man: Leslie Payne, frequently. Reg's right-hand Albie at other times.
    • In fact, the whole gang know better than to interfere with the brothers when they're arguing or otherwise going against even "the established gangster norms", and if they do remonstrate, they're putting themselves at risk.
  • The Oner: A good example during the scene where we follow Reggie and Frances into the pub, greeting various people, down to their table, Reg is forced to go and deal with Jack McVitie and finally back to the table where he flirts with Fran and they kiss. The only more impressive thing they could have done would be to some how work Ron into it, even in passing.
  • The Ophelia: Frances is a subdued example. Young, pretty, and explicitly referred to as "fragile," she deteriorates throughout the film into madness, finally reaching her breaking point after Reggie starts abusing her.
  • Posthumous Narration: Frances is the narrator of most of the movie.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Reggie, Albie, Leslie and other sane members of the firm, plus the Mafia. At first, Reg will only resort to violence when dealing with his enemies, punishing underlings, trying to keep Ronnie in line or in self defence. At the end however, he sadistically murders one of his gang with a partial throat cut and many stabs, showing that he's lost the plot.
  • Quote Mine: An interesting visual variant in this poster, which used some clever design work to make a two-star review appear to have four stars.
  • Rape as Drama: Heavily implied after a big fight between Fran and Reg; it's either this or him beating her. More likely the former.
  • Reading Lips: Played realistically by Leslie Holt, who's observing Reggie's furious reaction to finding out that Ronnie has run the club down and interpreting for the latter. He gets the gist, which is enough to put Ron on his toes, but there's also comedic misunderstanding involved.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In a similar fashion to Bruce Wayne's speech to get rid of the birthday guests in Batman Begins, Ronnie crassly rips into the club audience and tells them exactly how superficial and offensive he finds them. Unlike Wayne's speech though, it isn't an Obfuscating Stupidity performance or to help save them from a hidden threat. Its because he genuinely views them with contempt, and doesn't care if he loses business as a result, so long as he gets to call the shots his way.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Ron doesn't hesitate to correct Angelo, telling him about exactly what ethnicity of boys he's into. The mafioso is impressed by the sheer testicular fortitude and offers a toast, failing to amuse Ron back though.
  • Seme: Ronnie takes pride in only giving, never receiving.
  • Shout-Out: The Oner with Reggie and Frances in the pub is reminiscent of the famous scene of Henry and Karen in the Copacabana in GoodFellas.
  • Speech Impediment: As one of the many distinguishing traits between Hardy's two performances, he gives Ronnie an unusual nasal tone and mumble to colour his East End accent from that of Reggie.
  • Straight Gay: Ron may be into lads, but he explicitly identifies as a top, is the alpha of his little faction in the firm and of course is a violent crazy gangster.
  • Stupid Evil: Ron in spades. He repeatedly causes problems for his brother and the firm thanks to his bloodlust.
  • Thicker Than Water: The only reason Reggie doesn't kill Ron,despite all the problems the latter causes their firm.
  • Uke: Ronnie's two boyfriends, and by implication, every other guy he's fucked before, consensually or not.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Kray twins and their firm. The Pragmatic Villainy of the Reggie faction is contrasted to Ronnie and his lapdogs, who lean more towards Chaotic Evil due to his Ax-Crazy tendencies.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Somewhat unusually for a London gang, they employ one by the name of Ian Barrie. He's not explicitly violent, but he's more than willing to kick off as seen by the way he threatens his counterparts on the Richardson side. He's mainly used as a chauffeur and the guy who clears up the mess after Ron murders George Cornell.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Fresh back out on the streets, with a bouquet of flowers and wishing to avoid the hassle of going through her mother, Reg gets Frances' attention by throwing lemon sherbets at her window. He climbs up the pipe of their flat to the window and offers her a ring. She says yes, and during their proposal kiss they trade the sherbets between their mouths. All in all its quite a sweet scene.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: Frances begs Reggie to forgo his career. A rather justifiable example, since the profession Frances objects to is a criminal one that frequently lands her husband in jail. He does keep his promise to stay out of prison, but, she notes ruefully, he only managed to go straight for two weeks.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Regrettably, Reg to his beloved wife.
  • Would Not Hit a Girl: Ron, surprisingly enough. "It ain't how we were raised" is his reaction on seeing Frances after being roughed up by Reg.

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