The next few months promise a slew of powerhouse films from major franchises and directors — Hunger Games! Star Wars! Hateful Eight! — so it’s easy to see how Legend might slip through the cracks. Look past the overly vague, generic title and take a chance on this biopic about notorious English gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray. Here are five reasons why.
1. It’s a story you haven’t heard much about before — and it’s absolutely fascinating.
Time and time again, we've proven that we eat up a good gangster story, both fictional (see: Tony Soprano) and real (also see: Pablo Escobar). While British gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray are infamous across the pond, their story hasn’t gotten too much play over here — and it’s a shame, because it’s completely wild. The immensely feared Kray twins used their organized crime network to rule the East End of London, owned posh clubs and casinos in the West End of the city, and rubbed elbows with aristocrats and famous entertainers of the time (Sinatra was one of them). Also worth noting is that Ronnie was a paranoid schizophrenic and openly bisexual, often hosting elaborate gay orgies in his apartment that members of Parliament attended. I told you it’s like no other gangster story you’ve ever heard.
2. Tom Hardy nails it, as usual.
Tom Hardy’s had a big year — besides Legend, he was the titular character in Mad Max and is starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Revenant. But Legend is one of the most nuanced roles I’ve seen him play so far. For starters, he’s portraying both fraternal twins who, despite their shared penchant for violent crime, were starkly different. Even more, he delivers two entirely solid performances, each deserving of recognition. (He also seems to be one of those dudes that straight dudes can say they find handsome without feeling their masculinity is totally threatened.)
3. The main special effect is enthralling.
There's enough movie magic these days that something as simple as having an actor play two roles and then combining them onscreen shouldn’t be anything to fuss over. But it’s still a feat, and it’s done so seamlessly that it’s easy to forget there aren’t two different actors onscreen. (Related: see number two.)
4. The narrator’s perspective is much-needed.
Legend isn’t exactly going to pass the Bechdel Test, but I did appreciate that they had a woman telling the story — more specifically, Frances, Reggie’s first wife (played by the lovely Emily Browning). It lent a more intimate, well-rounded perspective to the tale, along with highlighting the story of someone who’s not typically a major part of Kray brothers history.
5. It’s just so damn nice to look at.
I feel about sixties London the same way I do about seventies New York: I can’t help but stare at anything that replicates that time period. From the style to the ambience to the music, Legend is a vibrant portrayal of that time that I couldn’t peel my eyes away from. Even the Kray’s impeccably sharp suits are a great juxtaposition to all the horrifying crimes they were committing. Oh, and there’s one pretty brutal bar fight you don’t want to miss.
Legend will open on November 20th in NY and LA, and then will expand to other theaters until its wide release on December 11th.