We’ve all got the message that Tom Hardy is a very fine actor, one of our best, in fact. So, it’s hard to know how else he could still prove it. Play a homeless, schizophrenic drug addict? (Stuart: A Life Backwards. Check.) Portray a criminally insane baldy beefcake? (Bronson. Check) Resuscitate a beloved action franchise? (Mad Max. Check.) How about both leads in the same film? As of this month: check.
Legend, directed by Brian Helgeland, is about the Krays, the identical-twin, East London mobsters who have somehow been sanitised in the British consciousness as national treasures (yes they eviscerated Jack “The Hat” McVitie with a carving knife, but they loved their mum and a nice cup of tea). Hardy plays both tough but rational Reggie, who’d rather be running a night club and stepping out with the missus, and the unhinged, volatile Ronnie, who’d rather be breaking people’s faces and shacked up in a woodland caravan with a boy.
The way Hardy separates the performances shows why he’s the business. As Ronnie he’s got specs, plus false teeth to even out Reggie’s (and his own) rather more erratically arranged set. But while he plays Reggie as a trad gangster with muddled morals, Hardy’s Ronnie is an unexpectedly peculiar and comic treat in a film that, let’s face it, isn’t full of laughs. For this alone they should give the man a Bafta. If not two.
Legend is out on 9 September
With themes that range from avarice to extreme poverty, this autumn film season at the Barbican examines the thorny issue of our culture's relationship with money through a series of films, documentaries and screen talks. Each of the 21 films in the event are followed by talks with directors and journalists, from the event opening documentary Inequality For All which is followed by a talk and discussion panel including journalist Polly Toynbee and economist Ann Pettifour, all the way through to more mainstream movies like American Psycho and Wolf Of Wall Street.
Runs 10-20 Sept