THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). DIRECTED BY ZACKARY ADLER. STARRING SIMON COTTON, KEVIN LESLIE, PHIL DUNSTER, DANNY MIDWINTER AND ALEXA MORDEN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. © Wow. These two low-budget films, based on the true life stories of notorious British gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, claim to leave out the glamorisation of the twins’ stories and to leave us with the impression that its two subjects are nothing more than two truly nasty pieces of work. Well, job done, because both films are heavy going and the twins have no redeeming features in them whatsoever. It’s not entirely realistic, however, because no-one is truly all bad, or even all good, for that matter. Even Hitler had his redeeming features. He loved dogs, especially his own bow-wow Blondi. He liked children, and the offspring of that charming couple, the Goebbels,’ doted on him and called him Uncle Adolf. He was a vegetarian too, and even though I know that that doesn’t automatically make a person ‘good,’ if he’d been alive today he probably would have been to the forefront of the ‘save the earth by stopping eating meat’ campaign. Isn’t that a really weird thought…? But the Kray twins in these two films just come across as thugs, brutish, humourless and incapable of feeling love or kindness, never mind mercy, towards any of their fellow men, or women. Their mother Violet is not seen in the film except in brief, dialogue-less flashback, so we are not able to witness the twins’ adoration for her that the 1990 film, THE KRAYS, with Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp in the starring roles, deals with so well. THE RISE OF THE KRAYS just shows us the twins beating people up for nearly two hours until eventually they pretty much run the criminal underworld in ‘50s and ‘60s London. There doesn’t seem to have been any crime in which they didn’t participate; protection rackets, arson, armed robbery, and, finally, murder. They leave behind them a trail of bloody and broken bodies, all casualties of their ferocious, overwhelming need for more and more power. Ronnie, like in the superb 1990 film, is portrayed as the more violent and angry of the twins, the one that always goes too far and has to be pulled away by Reggie, who’s screaming things like, come away, Ron, leave him, he’s dead already! They allowed people to get into huge debt to them, and then mutilated or crippled them in retaliation. Ronnie’s mental illness, his schizophrenia, is dealt with here. He did in fact finish his life in Broadmoor, the high security mental hospital, and would have been on medication, one presumes, till the end of his days. While he was at large, however, no-one, not even his beloved twin, could keep him in check. It was his excesses, and his genuine feeling that he and his brother were ‘untouchable,’ that led to his carelessness and to his making the mistake of shooting people in front of witnesses. Usually, witnesses to their crimes could be leaned on and ‘persuaded’ neither to testify against the Krays in court nor to single them out in identity parades, but every dog has his day and all good things, as they say, come to an end. It was the tireless work of London copper Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read that eventually got the terrible twosome banged up for life, a long-time ambition of Read’s. It was the murders of George Cornell of the excessively violent Richardson gang, convicted gangster Frank Mitchell, whom the Krays sprung from Dartmoor Prison as a sort of mad, ill-advised publicity stunt, and finally of Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie, that eventually ‘done for’ the brothers. Nipper has quite a big part in the second film. Reggie marries his quiet, girl-next-door type girlfriend Frances Shea in the second film, but he’s so foul to her and her parents are so against the match that it all ends in tears, and more besides, for poor Frances. She just didn’t seem to know the complexity of what she was getting in to. Ronnie was terminally jealous of his brother’s marriage and wife. Whatcha need anyone else for, Reg, when we got each uvver, was his answer to everything. The only likeable people in the two films seem to be Dickie Baker, a member of the twins’ so-called Firm, and Lisa, the beautiful but slightly tragic escort/hooker. They look like they have a chance of happiness together at one stage, but they decide not to take it, for reasons best known to themselves. Sad. I love when she dryly calls him the Ghost of Christmas Past…! Cheeky but apt. Anita Dobson, by the way, of EastEnders fame, is back behind a bar here as the poor, put-upon bleached blonde pub landlady, Madge. Well, there you go, anyway. The 1990 film, THE KRAYS, has real heart and we quite get to like the twins and empathise with them and their dear old mum, even though we know that the lads have done some really bad things. Part of our empathy stems from the fact that the twins are played by the dreamy Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp from ‘80s British New Wave band Spandau Ballet, but it’s also a bloody good film as well. Here, the Krays’ close relationship with their mother, brilliantly played by Billie Whitelaw, has something almost of the mystical about it. Mother and sons are nearly supernaturally close, connected tightly forever through hearts and minds. The women here are all such troopers too, such strong characters. They’ve survived Hitler and World War Two, they can make a few shillings feed everyone in the family for a week and they know what it’s like to be dodging blows from an unemployed and depressed alcoholic of a husband at closing time on Friday and Saturday nights. Such a great film. I thoroughly recommend it to your attention. THE RISE OF THE KRAYS and THE FALL OF THE KRAYS, unfortunately, don’t come close to the 1990 film for heart, soul and characters we can empathise with. It makes the two brothers look evil, mentally deranged and just thoroughly unpleasant characters. There’s a good ‘Sixties soundtrack and you might find your nostalgia strings being plucked at the sight of ‘Sixties London, but there’s not a lot else to commend this gore-fest. Sorry…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: