Saturday, April 8, 2017

Legend (2015)

Year 9, Day 98 - 4/8/17 - Movie #2,592

BEFORE: I've bounced this week between crime films and superhero stories, and even worked in a seafaring tale - but now I'm back on the crime beat.  Paul Anderson carries over from "In the Heart of the Sea", which enables me to kick off a Tom Hardy triple-play.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Black Mass" (Movie #2,588)

THE PLOT: Identical twin gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray terrorize London during the 1960's.

AFTER: They made a film about these criminals once before, it was called "The Krays" and it starred real twin brothers - the ones who were in the band Spandau Ballet (kids, ask your parents, or just look them up on Wikipedia, it's probably easier...)

It's hard for me to get a read on Tom Hardy, partly because he plays either these sci-fi roles with a lot of make-up and prosthetics, like as Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises" or in "Star Trek: Nemesis", or he sort of disappears into his role, method-style, as he does here.  So if I try to think about what he looks like in real life, I have no idea.  I guess he looks more like Reginald than Ronald, because when he's playing Ronald here he's got those thick-framed glasses, and he's basically using the Bane voice again.  I don't know if he's just set himself on a path to play as many different and unusual roles as possible, or what.  Maybe his agent's got a grudge against him, or just likes throwing acting challenges his way.

That's the biggest challenge for an actor, right?  Playing twins, or two roles in the same film, and making each one distinct?  I saw this same thing recently in "Now You See Me 2", though I didn't mention which actor got to play the dual role, because spoilers.  But it goes way back in acting, past Patty Duke's "identical cousins" (whatever that means) or Peter Brady's never-explained double on that episode of "The Brady Bunch" (his brother from another mother?).  It probably goes back further than "The Wizard of Oz", where the farmhands, the traveling psychic and Mrs. Gulch all appeared as characters in Oz, and past stage-plays of "Peter Pan" where the same actor who played Wendy's father usually also played Captain Hook (more on that at the end of this month).

The technology has gotten much better in the last few decades, as we saw Nicolas Cage play twin brothers in "Adapation." and Michael J. Fox playing two roles at once in "Back to the Future III", and then, of course, there's "Cloud Atlas".  Beyond the old "split-screen" effect, they can now have an actor interacting with a stuntman, and then later super-impose the actor's head on the stuntman's body, which enables the Kray brothers here to disagree and have a bar fight with each other, and you can almost forget that it's the same actor in both roles.  It looks like they'll be doing something similar on the upcoming season of "Fargo", with Ewan McGregor playing brothers who interact.

It's enough to make this film unusual and interesting, but perhaps not enough to overcome the same narrative problem I saw in "Black Mass".  The criminals do something bad, there's a reason why they're not caught or charged, they apologize to their loved ones, then go commit another crime.  Repeat as necessary over the next two hours.  There's no real redemption along the way, which is also a bit of a shame.

Also starring Tom Hardy (last seen in "Layer Cake"), Christopher Eccleston (last seen in "24 Hour Party People"), David Thewlis (last seen in "Seven Years in Tibet"), Emily Browning (last seen in "Pompeii"), Taron Egerton (last seen in "Kingsman: The Secret Service"), Paul Bettany (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Chazz Palminteri (last seen in "Mulholland Falls"), Colin Morgan, Tara Fitzgerald (last seen in "Exodus: Gods and Kings"), Sam Spruell (last seen in "Taken 3"), Adam Fogerty, Joshua Hill, John Sessions (last seen in "The Iron Lady"), Kevin McNally (last seen in "Entrapment"), with a cameo from Duffy.

RATING: 5 out of 10 tap handles

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