Legend

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by Joseph Saulnier

Have you heard of Legend? Not the movie from the mid-eighties, but the story of Ronnie and Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy, playing both brothers). Don’t know who they are, that’s okay, neither did I. But if you are across the pond and are reading this, you probably do. They Kray brothers are twins, and perhaps the most notorious gangsters in London history. Think John Dillinger, or Al Capone, of the UK.

Legend is a story of Reggie and Ronnie Kray’s rise to power as the top gangsters of the East End of London, and beyond. However, it is told from the point of view of Reggie’s wife, Francis Kray (Emily Browning). Though, the movie starts with her meeting Reggie for the first time, and it is really a love story of how she fell in love with a gangster that would not change his ways. There is nothing solely remarkable about the plot of the movie, but it is definitely captivating. I went into the film not knowing much about the Krays, but glad that I didn’t as it might have marred my experience.

Hardy, however, is remarkable in his portrayal of the Kray brothers. Each brother having his own distinctive personality, and even distinctive looks despite being identical twin brothers. Ronnie, as Francis describes him, is a one man mob trying to take control of London. The only catch is that he is paranoid schizophrenic and has trouble in social situations. This leads to a high distrust of people, and some intriguing scenes during the course of the film, especially interacting with Francis and his brother. Reggie is the intelligent, methodical brother who has bigger goals and aspirations than his brother, but his loyalty to his family holds him back. He has a deep loyalty, and even in the height of conflict would not take his anger, or disappointment, out on Ronnie. This did not sit well with Francis, who desperately wanted Reggie to go straight, but still agreed to marry him, even against the wishes of her mother.

There is no rise without a fall, but I won’t give too much insight into that as it will help the movie win you over if you know less. But Hardy and Browning were backed by a wonderful supporting cast including the likes of David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, Taron Egerton, and Chazz Palminteri. Hardy himself brought some levity to the more serious scenes, though there were times where I was taken out of the movie as Ronnie Kray had a slight tendency to sound like Bane, Hardy’s previous role in the Dark Knight franchise.

If you enjoy British films such as Rock’n’Rolla, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or Trainspotting, you will definitely enjoy Legend. In fact, Legend is the first movie rated 18+ in the UK to break the box office record set by Trainspotting in 1996. That says a lot about the movie. Will I add it to my collection upon home release? The jury is still out on that, but it definitely was a great film and worth seeing.

4 stars out of 5

Need For Speed

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by Joseph Saulnier

Need for Speed starts with you, the player, coming into Ventura Bay to join a small group of unknown racers. Each race you complete successfully brings you, and your crew, one step closer to being recognized throughout the racing community. The races/missions you complete are offered by each member of your crew, with rewards/perks being based on their specific area of expertise. There are a total of five different ways to earn Reputation, which is NFS equivalent to XP. Speed, Style, Build, Crew and Outlaw are all contributing factors. As you complete the missions based on these factors, you’ll move closer to challenging a Driving Icon in the NFS world. Defeating a Driving Icon will not only earn you their respect, but also infamy.

Once I started cruising around the streets of Ventura Bay, I was blown away out the realistic visuals. The streets were reflective as they had the right amount of moisture from passing rain. And judging by the amount seen so far, this appears to be fictional city set in America’s Pacific Northwest region. The streets are filled with wet asphalt, but luckily the puddles found in races and just roaming around seem to be mostly for aesthetic purposes as my already poor driving ability wasn’t affected by them. Street lights, fluorescent signs, and headlights of oncoming vehicles all had a surreal look to it.

The NFS series has always offered a more arcade feel to vehicle handling with slight simulation mechanics, and this latest installment from Ghost Games is no different. The game has a nice variety of race styles to complete, although there was a heavy focus on drifting. Too much focus on it. There are only two or three race styles that focus on speed and precision driving, but there are roughly five different race types dealing with drifting. So if you prefer your car to have a lot of grip, you’re going to have to learn how to drift eventually.

After seeing how realistic this world looked, I completely understood why Ghost Games went with Full Motion video for the cutscenes. The FMV scenes helped in keeping the realistic illusion of the Bay’s streets. I found there to be a fair amount of production in the FMV scenes, which gave a very ‘Fast & Furious’ vibe to the game, although there were certain things that took me out of the experience. Any time I’m with a group of people, I found them all looking at me at the same time, regardless of who was talking on screen (which was never you). The attention in normal conversations tends to shift from person to person, and I felt like I had something on my face which no one wanted to tell me about. It also didn’t help that the acting was on par with B-movie standards of exaggerated caricatures.

The FMV scenes and the drift-focused racing weren’t the only things that took me out of the experience. You’re the new guy in town, but for some reason you are awfully popular with the bombardment of phone calls (including many conference calls) from you crew. No matter what you are doing, these calls came in. Even from the crew member whose event you were taking part in.

While I understand the culture that is being represented in NFS more than most, I was surprised to find there was so much drinking going on prior to races. I was invited to meet up at a bar, at a friend’s house for a party, and in both cases the obvious implication was seemed to be that everyone was drinking. This may be the future parent in me coming out, but I didn’t like the idea of my crew pounding down the drinks and then jumping behind the wheel.

The vehicles also left something to be desired. Though they were pretty much par for the course when it comes to NFS standards, they just aren’t as visually pleasing as you surroundings. This is made even more apparent when the CGI vehicle is injected into an FMV scene. It was similar to the visual style of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, which is one of my favorite movies, so I am a bit torn. Also, the selection of vehicles leaves a lot to be desired, but that could be the Volkswagen lover in me griping that the only VW selection is MKI Rabbit.

For taking a year off to work on this entry in the Need for Speed franchise, I was sure hoping Ghost Games would have given its reboot a more noteworthy return. While Ventura Bay is beautiful and there are plenty of missions to play, the constant distractions and lack of freedom of driving style I felt while playing it kept me away from enjoying it as much as I have previous iterations. If you’re a long-time fan of the series, you’ll definitely find something to enjoy about the game, but if it’s your first time behind the wheel of a NFS vehicle, you may want to check out some of the previous entries and sit this one out.

3 stars out of 5.