Legend starring Tom Hardy

Legend has gotten some pretty good reviews. Total Film called it a “career-best performance” for star Tom Hardy, Time Out gushed that it was “surely his finest hour,” and so on. But it had a few detractors as well, including one critic who declared it “disappointingly shallow” in a two-star review.

Typically, movie marketers simply don’t use negative reactions. It’s no secret that all those gushing pull quotes in the ads are cherry-picked to make the film look as good as possible. The team behind Legend, on the other hand, decided to put it front and center on their new poster. They just employed some genius visual trickery to make the review look like a rave, rather than a pan. See the Legend negative review poster after the jump. 

Directed by Brian Helgeland, Legend stars Hardy as Reggie and Ronnie Kray, twin gangsters who ruled London’s underworld in the 1960s. Reggie is the smooth, charismatic one without glasses; Ronnie is the bespectacled psychopath. While many critics were enamored of Hardy’s committed dual performance, The Guardian‘s Benjamin Lee was not a fan. Here’s a sample from his review:

While Hardy is undeniably commanding as Reggie, in the more difficult role of Ronnie, he is only intermittently effective. Too often Hardy’s performance falls into broad “crazy eyes” villainy, with a voice that recalls a slightly more distinct Bane. But given Helgeland’s equally pantomime surroundings, one can’t really blame him too much.

Ouch. but the cunning folks behind Legend‘s promotional campaign saw a way to use Lee’s review to their advantage. Here’s the new Legend ad, as shared by Lee on Twitter:

You’d think a two-star rating would stick out like a sore thumb in a sea of four- and five-star ratings. But the poster design perfectly positions those two stars to make it look like a four-star set whose other two stars are just hiding behind Hardy’s heads. It’s a totally shady move, and kind of a brilliant one. Which is arguably appropriate, given that the film is about two guys who gain infamy on the strength of some very shady business dealings.

While this is a particularly egregious example of misleading marketing, it’s hardly the only one. It’s not uncommon for ads and posters to quote to out-of-context phrases, or play up praise from dodgy publications. And we’ve all seen trailers that seem to sell a completely different kind of movie from the one audiences are actually getting.

In other words, it takes a special level of deceit to get the Internet talking about an otherwise ordinary-looking poster. So bravo, Legend‘s marketing team. I’d say you’ve earned those two extra stars, even if the movie itself didn’t.

Legend opens September 9 in the U.K. and October 2 in the U.S.

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