The Krays are Hardy Boys
Having climbed the ladder Ronnie and Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) are well known and not only with the police, with Nipper Read (Christopher Eccleston) permanently on their case, but they have come to the attention of the Las Vegas Mafia who through Angelo Bruno (Chazz Palminteri) wants to do business with them. But it is clear for all to see that whilst the twins have risen to where they are through being gangsters they are changing as Reggie has fallen for Francis Shea (Emily Browning) who wants him to go straight whilst Ronnie having at one point been declared insane wants to continue to run their empire with violence and intimidation. As Ronnie's behaviour becomes increasingly unpredictable it has a knock on effect on Reggie's relationship to Francis as well as their business.
Like with many movies my first thought when they announced "Legend" was do we really need another movie about Ronnie and Reggie Kray because quite frankly the 1990 movie starring Martin and Gary Kemp did a decent enough job of telling their story from childhood through to prison. But "Legend" surprised me because it intelligently focuses on a period of change rather than telling the whole story and by doing so explores the brother's characters and relationship not so much more deeply but with a greater clarity.
As such what you get in "Legend" is a look at the Krays from roughly when Reggie met Francis and how things were changing for them. But whilst part of the story is of course about Reggie's love for Francis what you also get is this look at how Reggie saw their empire as a way of making money and of a way to become almost legit whilst Ronnie missed the violence and wanted them to go back to their old ways of bullying people. On top of that we see how Ronnie becomes increasingly unhinged when it comes to everything making him not just dangerous to be around but destructive when it came to what they had built. It is fascinating as you do get a sense that Reggie whilst loving his brother was also frustrated by him because of the way he acted. But you also get a sense that whilst he loved Francis there was still a violent side to himself that he could never truly escape.
Now of course "Legend" does have Tom Hardy playing both Ronnie and Reggie and it has to be said that he certainly makes them very difference with Reggie being almost at times a movie idol charmer whilst Ronnie borders on comical bad guy. It almost gives "Legend" a playful side almost to the point of feeling a bit spoof like due to the full on nature of each characterisation. But it is entertaining as are all the performances with Christopher Ecclestone also giving a touch of humour to his performance as Nipper Read. In many ways the movie needed the almost over the top characterisations to make the entertainment not just about the violence and the swearing which there is plenty of.
What this all boils down to is that "Legend" works and does so by telling half the story of the Krays, focusing on the volatility of their relationship as well as Reggie's relationship to Francis. And in doing so it becomes less of a biopic and more about the entertainment of the characters and of course their violent sides.