Like Wrigley’s “Double your pleasure! Double your fun!” gum, this weekend’s movie Legend is two Tom Hardys in one. He plays the dual roles of Britain’s most notorious gangsters, Ronnie and Reginald Kray, identical twins and violent thugs who ruled London’s underworld during the 1950s and 1960s.
Previously real-life siblings Martin and Gary Kemp of ’80s new wave band Spandau Ballet impersonated the brothers in the 1990 film The Krays, but these days special effects allow Hardy to play both brothers. “The movie’s a testament to the Krays’ ability to get away with everything, for a while, anyway,” wrote Ty Burr in the Boston Globe. “But it’s better evidence of Tom Hardy’s ability to do just about anything.”
Already this year we’ve seen the talented actor in the Mad Max reboot Fury Road, the musical London Road and the crime thriller Child 44. Soon he’ll play opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant and is currently shooting Taboo, a new BBC mini series scheduled to air next year.
He’s also made waves as The Dark Knight Rises’ brooding hulk Bane and dream-dancer Eames in the megahit Inception.
In between these box office busters he’s appeared in smaller, edgier films that deserve a look. Here are some of the other films that have helped Tom Hardy become legend.
Lawless takes place during Prohibition. The bootlegging business is booming, run by hillbillies who’ll sell to anyone with a buck and a thirst. The most notorious are the Bondurant family; headed by Forrest (Hardy) who engages in a knock down, drag out moonshine war with a corrupt lawman played by Guy Pearce. Hardy leads the cast as a soft-spoken thug with a brainy bent. “It’s not the violence that sets men apart,” he says, “it is the distance he is prepared to go.”
When he isn’t waxing philosophical he’s busy earning most of the film’s few laughs. It’s a natural, unaffected performance that really shows what he can do without a mask strapped to his face.
In these days of maximalist moviemaking Locke goes the opposite way, trimming the movie down to one claustrophobic setting and a single on-screen actor. Locke is the first movie in recent memory that would probably work as well as a radio drama as it does a film. Hardy is Ivan Locke, a straight arrow construction foreman determined to be at the birth of his child. In his car, he’s battling traffic for the hour-and-a-half drive to London and the mother-to-be’s hospital. Trouble is, the child is the result of a lonely one-night stand and he’s a married man.
The entire film takes place in the front seat of Locke’s car, in real time, as he drives the M1. We see through the windshield, into the backseat and the display screen of car phone and GPS. Most of all we see Hardy’s face, which, even though obscured by a beard, still allows his charisma to ooze through. His face is the engine of the film, his talent the driver.
In the Drop, Hardy he plays Bob Saginowski, a mild mannered bartender at a Brooklyn neighbourhood pub owned by the Chechnyan mafia. Like many of the borough’s bars, Marv’s is sometimes used as a “drop,” a place where gangsters secretly hide money until it is collected by their crime bosses.
As Bob, Hardy is a cypher; kind to dogs, shy and lovesick, he is an average neighbourhood guy. Except in this neighbourhood average guys have pasts, and Hardy does a nice job of playing a man who is trying to move on while the past tries to stop him in his tracks.