Tom Hardy Times Two

The hunky actor plays a pair of identical twins—real-life English gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray

Tom Hardy, at left and right, in Legend.

Tom Hardy, at left and right, in Legend. (Photo: Courtesy Universal Pictures 2015)

The excellent director Peter Medak already made one arty movie about the Kray brothers 25 years ago, but there’s nothing more welcome in movie lore than villains with sexy charisma, and Tom Hardy fills that bill with a few cojones left over. In a standard rise-and-crash plot, narrated by Reggie Kray’s doomed wife Frankie (Emily Browning), the lurid mix of sex, violence and mental illness that symbolized the vicious Krays is fully vented.

(2/4 stars)

Written and directed by: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning and Taron Egerton
Running time: 131 min.

Ronnie was gay, paranoid and a ruthless nut case whose whip hand extended to the House of Lords and even the prime minister. Reggie was a suave, preening, mendacious bully who killed off the opposition with relish.  Together they make a rough and ready combo of Bruce Willis and a Men’s Health cover. Mr. Hardy does nothing to change his looks except slick back his hair for one brother and don a pair of nerdy glasses for the other, yet he is totally different. You always know who is who and which is which; the movie keeps you on your toes just trying to figure out what they’re saying. Sometimes this is a blessing, with dialogue such as “Home at last, like Agamemnon returned from Ithaca!” inspiring laughs in all the wrong places.

Times have changed since Bette Davis lit her own cigarette in the good-twin-bad-twin vehicles A Stolen Life and Dead Ringer. Technology now makes it possible for Tom Hardy to share a meal with himself and chew for two people at the same time. Finally, they beat each other to a pulp in the damnedest display of camera trickery imaginable. The script may be flawed and the narrative storytelling mechanical, but the period details are fascinating, the camerawork swaggers across a maze of squalid row houses and nightclub floors with visual velocity, and whenever either one Tom Hardy (or both) is onscreen, Legend is engrossing stuff indeed.