Legend Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

London, 1960s. The Kray twin brothers – Reggie (Tom Hardy) and Ron (Tom Hardy) – came from the very bottom of the East End, paved the way to the top with their fists, their own fearlessness, knives and firearms, put together their own gang, called the “Firm”, and became in to some extent legendary gangsters. Reggie is a kind of “gangster gentleman”. He dresses well, likes to make acquaintances with famous people, tends to legalize business, so, without leaving racketeering, robberies and armed raids, Reggie began a completely different kind of activity: he became the owner of a famous nightclub in the West End, where many celebrities go , including actors and politicians.

Ron is a gangster killer. He is not too interested in building a criminal empire, which Reggie is engaged in. Ron is a fan of force actions: attack someone, rob someone, shoot someone in the head. Under the influence of anger, Ronnie becomes uncontrollable, and then everyone around is in danger.

Ron had already run into something: received three years in prison for causing grievous bodily harm. Shortly before his release, Ron was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, as doctors suspect he has a paranoid personality disorder, but Reggie threatened a well-known psychiatrist, who vouched that Ron was completely normal, after which he was released from the clinic.

Reggie hired a new chauffeur, Frank (Colin Morgan), who overslept on his first day at work, and Reggie went to his house to insert a piston for the guy. But the driver’s sister Frances (Emily Browning) opened the door of the house, and Reggie fell in love with her at first sight.

Meanwhile, Reggie has a lot to do. A nightclub is a nightclub, but all sorts of gangster cases need to continue to be done, and besides, Angelo Bruno (Chuzz Palminteri), the man of Meyer Lansky himself, comes to Reggie from across the ocean. Meyer is interested in London and wants to build a casino in this city.

And doing business Reggie is very complicated by the unstable state of Ron, who always creates problems for his brother. But what can Reggie do about it? This is a brother, native blood!


The Kray brothers are real-life gangsters, who in the sixties were known not only by the entire East End, but by many people throughout the UK: the brothers were downright stars, an interview with them was shown live on one of the central channels in 1965.

They actually owned the popular West End nightclub Esmeraldas Barn (the club’s former owner actually gifted it to the brothers because he was very transparently hinted at what would happen to him if he didn’t), where celebrities such as Judy Garland (Reggie even had an affair with her), George Raft, Diana Dors, Barbara Windsor, and, of course, how could it be without Frank Sinatra, who also visited London!

However, the club, although profitable, was certainly not their main business. The brothers created one-day firms that collected loans and goods on credit, after which the money was stolen, the goods were sold, the next “presidential chairman Pound” was sent to prison, on whose account the amount of compensation already lay, and the brothers opened the next company.

They were also actively involved in racketeering, but already, let’s say, semi-legal. That is, they created a security agency that dealt with the protection of various famous people and certain business structures. And you would only try to refuse the kind offer of this “security agency”.

They were involved in many crimes and committed some crimes themselves, but, as usual in those days, the police could not collect the relevant evidence to put them in jail: the witnesses refused to testify, fearing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

The Kray brothers also had serious ties with American mafiosi – the same Meyer Lansky, with whom they were going to build a casino on shares, with the Gallo brothers, with the Genovese family, whose bonds from a bank robbed in Canada, the brothers laundered in London.

Their lives formed the basis of John Pearson’s book The Art of Cruelty: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins. Based on this book, in 1990, Peter Medak made the film “The Kray Brothers”, where the twins were played by musicians, founders of the Spandau Ballet group Gary Camp and his brother Martin Camp. I watched this film for this review, about it – below.

In 2015, the film “Legend” was released, directed by American screenwriter and director Brian Helgeland. The screenplay, written by Helgeland himself, is based on a book by John Pearson. And Helgeland, by the way, is the screenwriter of L.A. Confidential, the screenwriter of the excellent film Wrath, and the director of Reckoning and A Knight’s Tale.

For some reason, I missed this film at one time, but recently I began to stumble on social networks on the famous episode “I came to a shootout like in a Western” from this film, well, I thought, why shouldn’t I still watch it , because there is Tom Hardy and all that, and I love the genre of gangster crime drama.

Looked. The film left ambiguous impressions, and what is in it one way or another – now let’s talk about it.

The American origin of the director in the film is very noticeable. Although this is a film about British gangsters, it is built more along the lines of American crime films, and not just along the lines, it also uses specific templates from these films. At the same time, the heroes of the picture – those who are gangsters from the East End – seem to speak in fact that neither is cockney, but the film looks more like some kind – and not to say that very successful – imitation of Martin Scorsese, rather than Guy Ritchie.

London as such is practically not present in the picture – one or two streets, two or three pubs, furnished rooms and a nightclub, which could just as well be the American “Cotton Club”, only it does not have the appropriate scope.

The director also could not really decide on the style of narration, so he used a rather cheap, as it seems to me, option: at first, these events seem to be told in the words of Francis, and what, in fact, did Francis have to do with what she knew about her husband’s affairs ?

In gangster films, an off-screen narrator is often used, but this is either one of the main characters, or some of his closest associates, who, from his own point of view, tells how it all happened there. And here – at first it seems to be Francis, then they forget about Francis and there is no longer any narrator: somehow it all looked somewhat illogical.

Well, here is the story of Francis, who married a gangster, because he “promised to quit”, but he, as expected, did not quit, it seems to be becoming pivotal in the narrative, but in fact this core does not really hold anything .

The brothers are directly opposed to each other. Reggie seems to be so reasonable, correct and businesslike, he is trying to legalize the business – just like Michael Corleone. And Ronnie is sort of like Sonny: a fearless commander who lacks strategic thinking, but here Ronnie is such an obvious psychopath, spoiling almost everything that Reggie created. And the viewer has a question: what, such a businesslike and cool Reggie could not prevent Ronnie from reaching important control levers?

And Helgeland’s film turned out to be strange: it seems that there is a story, and certain bright events, and it is staged well, and the roles are good, but all the time you feel that something is missing. There is no integrity here, there is no clear understanding of how to tell this story, so Helgeland staggers here and there: the story of Francis, the story of the brothers, here we give Scorsese, here we give Ritchie (the same scene “I came to the gunfight”), here let Hardy will fight himself.

The Scotland Yard cops who are watching Reggie are like such clowns, and Reggie openly mocks them, and then they kind of got both brothers – you see, they turned out to be not such clowns, were they?

However, interestingly, the claims of some critics that Helgeland in the picture, they say, thought up a lot of things and it looks completely unreliable, completely unfounded. Critics simply did not bother to study the real story of the Kray brothers. But there really was everything that is reflected in the film, Helgeland didn’t invent anything special. He simply failed to make a coherent and intelligible story out of it, but the facts are stated quite clearly.

Ronnie’s homosexual affairs – the boys who surrounded him, his connection and orgies with a member of the Conservative Party, Lord Boothby – offended many reviewers who angrily wrote that this could not have happened in the UK at that time, because prison was supposed to be for same-sex relationships – well, they would have read the relevant materials, because this all actually took place, although the law criminalizing male same-sex relationships was repealed only in 1967. (And in Scotland and Northern Ireland, only after 1980.)

By the way, the real Ronnie, who did not hide his sexual preferences in any way, was terribly offended when he was called gay, because he considered himself bisexual. As far as I read, he was married two or three times, but there is ample evidence of his relationships with men. And the sensational public murder by Ron of one of the people of the Richardson brothers with whom the Krays fought, George Cornell, happened because Cornell called Ronnie a fat fag at one of the regular showdowns. And Ron did not forgive such things. Because he wasn’t that fat!

I note that for all its specific shortcomings, Helgeland’s film is not at all bad and you can watch it primarily because of Tom Hardy, who perfectly played both of them, and such different brothers. And even if the brothers are somewhat exaggeratedly bipolar, but these are claims against the screenwriter, and not at all against the actor himself, who played these two roles, in my opinion, it’s just great!

And by the way, Ronnie’s way of talking (the real Ronnie really spoke very illegibly, which I will show below in the video) – it somewhat resembles the manner of the Jewish London mobster Alfie Solomon, whom Tom Hardy played in the excellent Peaky Blinders series, and Alfie appears there, As far as I remember, around the same time that this film was being shot. (The series started in 2013.) The episode It’s not discuss is really very powerful!

Actress Emily Browning I had only seen in Sucker Punch before this film. Here she performed very well, but she was not really allowed to turn around in a purely scripted way, and there was nowhere – she is not the main character, although at first the story seems to be told from her face.

Of the other notable actors – David Thewlis very well played Leslie Pan, who dealt with the financial issues of the gang, and he was Reggie’s man, and the paranoid Ronnie did not like him, because he believed that Leslie knew too much.

Chazz Palminteri was great to see as overseas messenger Meyer Lansky: he only had two episodes, but they were very good.

Paul Anderson did an excellent job of playing Reggie’s closest assistant, and the same Paul Anderson at the same time already shone in Peaky Blinders, where he perfectly played the unruly Arthur Shelby.

Well, Taron Egerton plays Teddy Smith here – one of Ronnie’s “boys”. By that time, Egerton had already become famous thanks to his role in “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, and four years later he will play Sir Elton John in the film “Rocketman”.

What is the result? This movie is worth watching in my opinion. Completely optional, but worth it. Tom Hardy is very good, there are also some fairly bright roles here. The staging is uneven, secondary, formulaic, but it is not at all an obvious cranberry, as some reviewers have written. The plot more or less corresponds to reality, but it just turned out not to be an American movie about American gangsters, and not a British movie about British gangsters, but something in between, in which the picture loses more confidently staged films on a similar topic. But I have never regretted that this picture looked.

Now let’s talk about Peter Medak’s 1990 film The Krays. I looked it up for this review – in trial mode. Gary Camp and his brother Martin Camp play there.

In this film, a significant part is occupied by the childhood of the Kray brothers (in reality, by the way, they had an older brother Charlie, who always kept a low profile, but played an important role in the life of his younger brothers) and shows the huge role that their mother Violet played in their upbringing , her sister and her father, the boys’ grandfather Jimmy “Cannonball” Lee. (The twins’ father, Charles Cray, was constantly on the road, did not participate in the life of the family, and then completely went on the run when he was drafted into the army.)

In the picture there is no such a vivid contrast between the characters of the brothers: they are, of course, different, each with their own characteristics, but here they are more like part of one contradictory whole.

Here are shots from this film.

Brothers in disassembly.

The brothers with Meyer Lansky’s messenger.

Reggie with Francis.

The same George Cornell in that film was played by the colorful actor Steven Berkoff. This is exactly the scene when Cornell is killed by Ronnie in the bar.

Family evening at the brothers’ club.

Ronnie. (Pay attention to the glasses and convince me that Brian Helgeland did not see this film – of course he did, he borrowed a lot from there.)

The Krays at the funeral of their mother Violet. This, by the way, was a well-known story that is reflected in the old film, and there is not a word about it in the new film. Violet had a great influence on the twins, she meant a lot in their lives. In the Helgeland film, she was shown to be just a very caring mother who loves both brothers, but in the first film, her role was much more significant.

Violet died on August 11, 1982, the brothers were released from prison for her funeral – under strict guard. The funeral was attended by some celebrities, including the famous British actress Diana Dors, and crime bosses who came out of respect for the Kray brothers.

In my opinion, the old film is much more authentic, it really is such a British crime drama, where the childhood of these people is much better revealed and why they became that way. And the twins themselves in this picture turned out to be closer to the original (judging by the information about the real brothers and their interviews) than the twins in the Helgeland film, which, let’s say, are still more straightforward cardboard – purely scripted.

PS And now, as usual, some photos of real prototypes and a couple of videos. The photos are taken from a detailed and very interesting article on the Stoneforest website – “Everything you need to know about the Kray twins”, I recommend reading it for those who want to find out as many details as possible about the life of these characters.

The Kray Brothers. On the left is Ronnie, on the right is Reggie.

Ronnie and Reggie with their mother Violet. Here you can’t really tell them apart.

Ronnie and Reggie with Violet and Grandpa Jimmy “Cannonball” Lee.

Official photograph of Reggie (left) and Ronnie, taken by a renowned photographer.

Ronnie Cray with Lord Boothby, with whom he had a more than close relationship.

Reggie with Frances at the wedding.

Grave of Ronnie and Reggie.

Interview with the Kray brothers on British television.

Video from the funeral of their mother Violet.

Legend movie meaning


Brian Helgeland


Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Duffy, Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri, Paul Anderson, Joshua Hill, Colin Morgan, Tara Fitzgerald, Paul Bettany Budget

: $25 million,  Global gross
:  $
42 million France, 2015, 131 min.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top