The Tardy Moviegoer likes his popcorn drenched in butter, his Pepsi ice cold and his theater empty.
There are two good reasons to see “Legend”: Tom Hardy.
Hardy stars as London crime lords Reggie and Ronnie Kray in this true-life crime thriller.
The twins built a bloody empire in the 1960s, and the film, directed and written by Brian Helgeland, captures the Krays at the height of their power in the 1960s.
Hardy, 38, is the draw and gives the film two extraordinarily different performances. As Reggie, he’s a charmer, eager to rub shoulders with celebrities as the owner of a popular nightclub.
As Ronnie, he’s certifiably insane, probably a paranoid schizophrenic, and eager for any excuse to assault someone. He’s gay, unapologetically so for his day. In one hilarious scene, when an American mobster offers to set him up with a nice Italian girl, Ronnie corrects him and says he’d prefer a boy – Italian, Greek, black, whatever, he doesn’t discriminate.
Helgeland told the Los Angeles Times that when he offered the script to Hardy, he wanted Hardy to play Reggie; Hardy had his heart set on the more dangerous Ronnie.
The two compromised by agreeing to let Hardy give life to both roles, and here we are. Thanks to today’s digital magic, Hardy appears seamlessly beside himself, and in one epic scene, even brawls with himself. (And Ronnie never fights fair.)
You’ll never have a problem telling the Krays apart because of Hardy’s clever shifts and tics in posture and body language. Reggie is smooth and suave, and yes, the more handsome of the two. Ronnie is thick, coiled and calls to mind Lurch from “The Addams Family.”
The film draws on a voiceover from Emily Browning as Frances, a young woman pulled into Reggie’s dark world, to frame the story, but uses her insights sparingly and then with a neat twist.
But “Legend” is Hardy’s show. He’s one of the few big stars today who doesn’t play the same part in every film – he clearly chooses scripts on how they will challenge him.
For two more great examples of his versatility, check out “The Drop,” in which he seems to play a simple-witted bartender (spoiler: he’s not), and “Locke,” in which he plays a mild-mannered family man who made one mistake and risks everything to answer for it. “Legend” is another worthy addition to his cinematic portfolio.
Here’s hoping the Academy is paying attention.