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.
In “Legend,” a new true crime drama about Britain’s most notorious gangsters, Tom Hardy plays the dual roles of Ronnie and Reginald Kray. Identical twins, the violent thugs ruled London’s underworld during the 1950s and 1960s and became celebrities of a sort, even being photographed by David Bailey and featured on television. Question is, will Hardy’s mirror imaging of the guys be like Wrigley’s “Double your pleasure! Double your fun!” gum or too much of a good thing?
“Legend” begins with voiceover from Reggie’s wife Frances Shea (Emily Browning). “London in the 1960s,” she says. “Everyone has a story about the Krays. Walk into any pub and everyone had a lie about them.” The film strings those romanticizes those stories in a genre-friendly tale of two men on the rise through London’s underworld.
Reggie is a slickster, a thug with a soft spot for Frances and the prestige of owning nightclubs. Ron is unpredictable, a psychopath prone to beating people with a hammer. The brothers are a unit, but two very different cogs of the same wheel. Reggie is straight, Ron is gay, openly so, which in London’s 1960s underworld was an enlightened stance. Reggie tried to work within the system; Ron tried to dismantle it. The thing that bound them was blood, theirs and that of their victims. “My loyalty to my brother is how I measure myself,” says Reggie.
Told from Frances’s point of view, the movie paints a vivid picture of her relationship with Reggie—he sweet talks her with, “The center of the earth can be anywhere you’d like… even the east end of London.”—and Swingin’ London with nightclubs and violent scenes that play like Scorsese with an English accent. On the personal side of the story the downside to being married to a gangster with a blood-is-thicker-than-water connection to his volatile brother quickly becomes apparent and brings the story to a film noir conclusion.
Written and directed by “LA Confidential” and “Mystic River” screenwriter Brian Helgeland “Legend” is a companion piece to the 1990 biopic “The Krays,” which starred actual twins, Spandau Ballet’s Martin and Gary Kemp as Reggie and Ron. The new film is less gritty—there is nothing that comes close to the brutal horror of Gary Kemp using a sword to give a stranger a gruesome “permanent smile”—choosing instead to play up the glamour of the period and the legend of London’s gangland.
It’s a less sensational portrait of the brothers but just as gimmicky in its own way. Special effects allow Hardy to play both brothers and while his performances are frequently impressive, it often feels like a trick to distract from an underwritten story. He effortlessly nails Reggie’s toxic mix of charm and brutality but as Ron seems to be trying too hard. Pulling faces that wouldn’t be out of place in “Reefer Madness,” Hardy strains to perform through facial prosthetics, occasionally to unintended comic effect.
“Legend” is aptly titled. More Kray Bros lore than nuance, it provides a glossy but glossed over look at the violent men behind the bespoke suits.
Synopsis: Set in the shadow of the gurgling volcano Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii stars Game of Thrones heartthrob Kit Harington as the muscle-bound Milo. His tribe, including his entire family, was wiped out by the vicious Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) dooming him to a lonely life of servitude under the thumb of Roman masters. Years later as a gladiator in Pompeii’s coliseum he sees a way to exact revenge and save Cassia (Emily Browning), the most beautiful girl in the lush resort town. As warriors Milo and Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) battle Roman soldiers in the coliseum, the volcano erupts, causing havoc. Will Milo get vengeance and save Cassia before a rolling mountain of lava and ash covers the city?
• Richard: 2/5
• Mark: 2/5
Richard: Mark, the spirit of Steve Reeves lives on. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Reeves’ oeuvre, he was Hercules before Kevin Sorbo, a legend of beefcake historical drama movies. His movies were all about bulging muscles, swinging swords and damsels in revealing togas. Which brings me to the spiritual cousin to the Reeves movies — Pompeii — which adds spewing lava, but not much else to the sword and sandal genre. Physically, Jason Statham sound-a-like Harrington is up to the heroic Reeves role but is slowed down by the thick layer of molten cheese that covers almost every frame of this film.
Mark: Richard, the movie reminded me of Titanic, but not in a good way. It’s 90 minutes of derivative and irrelevant narrative, a love story between an upper class woman and a commoner, followed by a half hour of the special effects you came to see in the first place. Harrington is fine, but it doesn’t matter. The real star is the volcano, and unfortunately, it has the best lines. The gladiator plotline is inferior to other films in the same genre, although I thought the 20 slaves versus 20 centurions scene was handled with great verve.
RC: It does take too long for Mount Vesuvius to blow its top — complete with flying lava meteorites — and when it does, the special effects aren’t quite as spectacular as you might hope from a CGI extravaganza. On top of that is muddy-looking 3D. The film overall is dark as though the whole thing was shot through a cloud of volcanic ash. Having said that, I didn’t think the volcano had all the best lines. I got a kick out of a prison guard loudly waking up the jailed gladiators by shouting, “Wake up, scum!”
MB: Oh. I thought he was shouting that to the audience. And poor Kiefer Sutherland, given a cardboard role in a papier-mâché film. I kept expecting him to look at the volcano and shout, “We’re running out of time!” What I think I would have liked was a drama that showed a cross section of Pompeii life all too tragically snuffed out by the erupting volcano. But maybe that would have been Pomp-ous.
RC: Ha! I felt that when slave trader Graecus said, “You dragged me from a perfectly good brothel for this?” he was speaking directly to me.
MB: Unfortunately the movie didn’t speak to me in any way, shape or form.
The spirit of Steve Reeves lives on. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Reeves’ oeuvre, he was Hercules before Kevin Sorbo, a legend of beefcake historical drama movies. His movies were all about bulging muscles, swinging swords and damsels in revealing togas.
Which brings me to the spiritual cousin to the Reeves movies, Pompeii, which adds spewing lava, but not much else to the sword and sandal genre. Physically Jason Statham sound-a-like Kit Harrington is up to the heroic Reeves role but is slowed down by the thick layer of molten cheese covers almost every frame of this film.
Set in the shadow of the gurgling volcano Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii Game of Thrones heartthrob Harrington is the muscle bound Milo. His tribe, including his entire family, was wiped out by the vicious Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) dooming him to a lonely life of servitude under the thumb of Roman masters.
Years later as a gladiator in Pompeii’s coliseum he sees a way to exact revenge and save Cassia (Emily Browning), the most beautiful girl in the lush resort town. As warriors Milo and Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) battle Roman soldiers in the coliseum the volcano erupts, causing havoc.
Will Milo get vengeance and save Cassia before a rolling mountain of lava and ash covers the city?
Harrington, Sutherland and Browning are the above-the-title stars here, but the real scene-stealer is Mount Vesuvius. Unfortunately it takes way too long for the volcano to to blow its top and when it does the special effects aren’t quite as spectacular as you might hope from a CGI extravaganza. As you might expect there are flying lava meteorites, bubbling lava and crumbling buildings, but it’s mostly just a bombastic CGI fest.
On top of that is muddy looking 3D that would make Steve Reeves squint. The film overall is dark as though the whole thing was shot through a cloud of volcanic ash.
I did get a kick out of a prison guard loudly waking up the jailed gladiators by shouting, “Wake up scum!” but by the time the credits started to roll I felt that slave trader Graecus was speaking directly to me when he said, “You dragged me from a perfectly good brothel for this?”
It’s said the people of Pompeii regarded the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. with “a response more of curiosity than of alarm.” The volcano had burped and belched as many as 50 times over the years, so most of the city’s 20,000 citizens didn’t pay attention when Vesuvius started to gurgle.
Perhaps they were too busy visiting one of the city’s many brothels — like a proto-Las Vegas, this was the richest city of ancient times, ripe with amenities and vice — or enjoying their lunches of broad beans, olives, dormice (plumped up by chefs in terracotta jars) or even garum, made from the first blood of a still-gasping mackerel, to detect the cloud of deadly volcanic ash headed their way.
By the end of the day the dust “poured across the land,” claiming 2,000 lives. Buried beneath, “a darkness… like the black of closed and unlighted rooms.” The remains of Pompeii and its people were preserved, left untouched for two millennia.
Today the ancient city of Pompeii is one of the most popular attractions in Italy, drawing almost three million tourists annually. But if you can’t make it to the Italian region of Campania, a new movie aims to recreate the experience for you.
Pompeii stars Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning and Kiefer Sutherland in a love story about a slave-turned-gladiator (Harington) who must rescue his beloved, Cassia (Browning), before a rolling mountain of lava and ash dooms her to the ages.
The big action adventure take on the story directed by Resident Evil helmer Paul W.S. Anderson has an ancestor in The Last Days of Pompeii, a 1913 silent sword-and-sandal movie based on the Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel of the same name. That book has been remade eight times.
The most famous version came in 1959. The big budget CinemaScope production was to have been directed by Mario Bonnard, but when he fell ill on the first day of shooting, screenwriter Sergio Leone (who would go on to make classics like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) stepped in. It’s big on pageantry, just as the advertising taglines would suggest. It’s a “Fiery Summit of Spectacle,” the posters screamed, promising an inside look at, “the City that Lived in Sin and Died in Flame!”
Certainly it’s more puffed-up than Up Pompeii, a 1971 Frankie Howerd comedy that featured a speech by emperor Ludicrus Sextus during Vesuvius’ eruption.
“I say, Lurcio, how did my speech go?” he asks his servant as the city crumbles.