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'Legend': Tom Hardy's Bloody Genius

09/09/2015 11:26 BST | Updated 08/09/2016 10:12 BST

What the UK film industry is not short of is gangster films - although few of them trouble our multiplexes. Many are sadly cookie cutter, low budget tales with names like 'Guns and Slags', 'Cockney Lords', 'Double Hard Bastards' or 'East End Bastard Slags With Guns: Double Hard Cockney Lords'. Or something like that.

The casts are riddled with textbook tough guys with grimaces like bulldogs licking piss off a thistle, growl-shouting and saying fuck and wanker a lot. Or that C word. They tend to be grim and nasty for the sake of it.

A broad stroke admittedly but you need not go further the DVD section of the average suburban supermarket, buried late night on niche TV channels or VOD platforms like Netflix. Other services are available.

They also can look like they have the production values of a Year 10 panto with a script written by Sweeney boxset binger with Tourettes. With more shooters. And it's a shame because they, the industry, and we are better than that.

Now every one can be The Krays, the seminal Krays tale - the clue is in the title - that starred one of the top three 80s British pop brothers in the lead roles, Martin and Gary Kemp.

FYI, the other two in the top three are Matt and Luke Goss and The Bee Gees. But then there's The Proclaimers. And Stedman and Delroy from Five Star. But I digress. Either way, the Kemps are in the Top Three.

The Krays, released in 1990, is a gem and holds up well. Nothing can take that away from it.

Every now and again though, something comes along that rises out of the flames like a sweary, bloody yet witty and oddly tender phoenix from the grim flames of cinema's portrayal of the criminal underworld.

This is 2015. This is Legend.

While it is flawed, the biggest flaw being that it could be accused of being slightly overlong, Legend is hands down unmissable and every inch a British classic.

Tom Hardy plays both Reggie and Ronnie Kray in this film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.

There are no Eddie Murphy Klumps-esque tricks here, Tom Hardy doesn't slip on a suit and ham it up, he acts. He becomes both brothers, both very different in temperament and physicality - they may as well as Sherman Klump and Grandma Klump in that they are THAT different in delivery. Smoke and mirrors? Some minor make up maybe but mostly just chilling authenticity and raw talent.

But we know this about Tom Hardy. HE never disappoints and doesn't do things by halves. He's lie that mate you have who, however insane the dare, takes you up on it. He's that guy. The dare is taking roles that challenge and the challenge is to deliver.

It's his thing but here it's his thing with a capital T. Both brothers were dark, deep and twisted in different ways, yet tender, and Legend showcases this. Hardy is the perfect conduit for these icons playing them with a kind of fractured venerability and fearful precision. What he never loses is a crystal clarity that these guys are both God and the Devil depending on what side of the table you are sitting.

Their wrath or salvation in the East End were two sides of the same coin - they helped you and you owed them and if that debt was no repaid then the hunter very quickly became the hunted. And you did not want to become the hunted.

The thing about Legend is that it is a film that it swaps between brutal horror and biting humour with such ease that it almost like watching choreographed vengenance. It is unsettling but it's impossible not to be impressed and appalled but ultimately utterly captivated.

Tom Hardy owns Legend however your eye will be caught by the brilliant Taron Egerton as Teddy Smith and Duffy - yes, THAT Duffy - as a lounge singer who pops up as almost a coda to the crazy. She says nothing but her vocals add a patina to the proceedings that can't be ignored.

But the film, and the cast, is riddled with casting such as those names as well as Aneurin Barnard and Emily Browning and Kevin McNally and Paul Bettany in parts that vary in size but catch your eye and just make this tapestry hang the right way. This film is dripping in blood and style and hangs there.

Why do we need another Krays film? We don't.

But for every straight-to-DVD geezer flick the balance needs to be addressed and this does that single-handedly. We need to pay respect to those demons and angels of London and the part they played in a part of British history with a panache that matches the punches.

Legend spills the guts and cuts the throat of a dark time in our social history and leaves the body on display as a warning to others. But it deserves it. The slag.

Legend opens in UK cinemas on September 9