Monday, December 14, 2015

Legend (2015)

Film: Legend (2015)
Stars: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton, Chazz Palminteri
Director: Brian Helgeland
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

At some point during Tom Hardy's recent film Legend, and I'm not entirely sure when, you start to have a moment where you forget that the actor is, in fact, playing two different parts onscreen.  It's a weird moment that doesn't really hit you until you get home and digest the movie.  Usually when an actor is doing two different parts, it's meant to be an inside joke with the viewer, and there's far too much winking at the audience for my taste (just look at something like a Peter Pan, where Mr. Darling is always, inevitably, Captain Hook).  Here, though, Hardy manages to pull off the trick of two very distinct, complete human beings that somehow look identical and yet are so different you hardly believe it's the same actor, much less in the same movie that he's doing this part.  The film itself is hardly worth the price of admission, but Hardy's trick is too cool not to behold, even if the film falters badly in cliches.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film follows Francis (Browning) as she romances Reggie Cray (Hardy), a London gangster with an incredible ease and almost celebrity-like charm, who is consistently hampered by his love for his certifiable (no, seriously) brother Ronny (also Hardy), whom he has to free from a mental hospital early in the film by way of coercion, and spends the rest of the film completely disregarding pragmatism and even sanity as they inexplicably become the lords of London's seedier neighborhoods, all to falter when Reggie foolishly chooses his brother and life of crime over his beloved wife.

The film itself sounds like you've seen it a thousand times before, and quite frankly you have.  The story of the hotheaded guy who brings apart his more upstanding brother is a tale about as old as the movies themselves, and we don't really see anything new here in that regard.  Ronny is meant to be a weird juxtaposition, a man who seems at times quite naive who nonetheless is a sadistic murder and also a homosexual, as he points out regularly and with great relish (Taron Egerton, the guy you thought was cute in the Kingsman trailer before you inevitably didn't go to it because the reviews were atrocious, plays his boyfriend), but if you take out the gay card there's really no difference between him and, say, Joe Pesci in GoodFellas.  Worse still than the screenplay is pretty much everyone other than Hardy in the film-people like Paul Bettany and Chazz Palminteri come in and do exactly what you'd expect of them, and even the royally-underused David Thewlis hardly has much to do except loathe Ronny for ruining his perfectly respectable criminal organization.  At the center is our narrator, all-grown-up Emily Browning who certainly looks the part of a beautiful Dusty Springfield-like 60's cover girl, but can't really act or sell her scenes in the way that I would have expected.  I've heard good things about Browning as an adult actress (I loved her in Lemony Snickett so many moons ago), but I don't see anything particularly compelling or special here except the way she clearly lusts after Reggie, but that's Tom Hardy in a suit so that's evolution, not thespian intuition, causing such a reaction.  Browning herself at least pulls off the quite nasty role late in the film of a misleading narrator, as we learn late in the film that Francis doesn't survive the movie.  In a film that is largely just a trick of the light with Tom Hardy's performance, it's probably the coolest jaw-dropper.

That said, Hardy is so good I almost want to give this film three stars from the get-go just so you can see what he does.  His performance as Ronny is, of course, the big-ticket acting moment but really it's both characters that sort of sell this-we forget that these are two men, essentially playing off of each other, which is an enormous feat and one that becomes all the more impressive as we watch them begin to despise each other, and yet weirdly mirror the other's behaviors.  It's a performance that will be remembered long after the film is lining the rubbish bins.

Those were my thoughts, at least-let's hear some of yours.  Are you as surprised at how compelling Tom Hardy is in this picture, and why don't you think that he has gained the sort of roles that a Michael Fassbender has since clearly he has the talent for it?  What are your thoughts about Emily Browning's film career as an adult?  And did anyone else realize the lounge singer in the film was Duffy?  I want to hear from you below!

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