by Brian Helgeland (2015)
perception of the Kray Twins will always be haunted by the Piranha
Brothers. Only a year after Ronnie and Reggie were sent down for the
last time, episode
14 of Monty Python’s Flying Circus gave us the unshakeable
myth: ‘Doug’ and ‘Dinsdale’ were “cruel, but fair”,
“cheerful but violent”, they loved their mum.
aptly titled Legend does not stray from that, though it does hint at a
grain of truth. Early on we see Reggie walking the streets of Bethnal
Green, followed by a police car, exchanging pleasantries with the
locals, everyone’s mate.
unpleasant nemesis Superintendent Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read (Christopher
Eccleston, or Python’s Harry ‘Snapper’ Organs) grimaces and sneers
at the “cockneys”. Why do they love the villains and hate the
that was how it was. The police were outsiders,deliberately posted to
areas far from where they were brought up (‘Nipper’ was from
Nottingham). They were the enemy, whether or not you were crooked
crooks, on the other hand, were born and brought up round the corner,
embedded in their community, perhaps protected by it, too (Reggie shakes
off his tail by going into someone’s house and out the back), and
therefore, somehow, in debt and obliged towards it.
those of us growing up in East London in the 1960s, the Krays and their
culture already seemed old-fashioned. And they were, we now know, the
last of their kind.
remains modern about them, though, was their manipulation of the media
and their celebrity. Foolishly stalking them into their club,
‘Nipper’ is caught on camera standing at the bar between the twins,
the big flash going off in his startled face and the picture in the
papers next day. He’s taken off the case. This kind of thing didn’t
start with smartphones and social media.
‘Snapper’ Organs says: “we
in Q Division were keeping tabs on their every move by reading the
makes mistakes, though. In the film world the East End consists entirely
of backstreets. So the Blind Beggar is removed from bustling Whitechapel
High Street to a deserted terrace corner. It makes Ronnie’s shooting
of George Cornell at the bar, right between the eyes, less audacious and
mad than it actually was.
pub has a line of swan-neck pipes attached to the beer engines. In
London? In the 1960s? I don’t think so.
we called them ‘sherbert lemons’ not ‘lemon sherbets’ if you
please, whatever it says on the jar.
quibbles, however, are swept away by Tom Hardy’s double-starring role
as Doug and Dinsdale… sorry, Ron and Reggie. My disbelief remained
suspended for the full 131 minutes. If anything, I worried whether the
twins ought to look a little more similar.
a compelling performance, or rather two compelling performances,
rivalled only by Emily Browning as the luminously pretty Frances Shea,
Reggie’s girlfriend and narrator of the tale, and John Sessions in a
splendidly salacious cameo of Lord Boothby.
succeeds remarkably in creating two quite distinct characters while also
showing us Ronnie has a bit of Reggie’s charm in him, and Reggie a bit
of Ronnie’s insanity.
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