When it comes to organised crime in the Fifties and the Sixties, no other criminals have aroused the sort of fascination in the British media as the Kray twins. Ronnie and Reggie Kray were infamously known for equally hanging out with celebrities like Frank Sinatra, mingling with prominent politicians of their time, as well as amassing an astonishing amount of armed robberies, assaults, protection rackets and even murders.
They terrorised the east of London first, before controlling most of the city. They got away with it for an astounding amount of time, and they became celebrities in their own right; the brothers’ faces appeared on the nation’s TV screens and iconic photographer David Bailey captured their terrorising expression.
The fascination with these sick individuals lives on despite their passing, at least on screen. The very first feature film solely dedicated to the twins’ gruesome career dates back to 1990, when Peter Medak’s award winning film The Krays was first released.
Intriguingly, two new films are tackling the brothers’ story this year. Legend, starring Tom Hardy, is a blockbuster film focusing on the life of Reggie Kray as he seeks to control the psychotic tendencies of his twin, and The Rise of the Krays, an independent production directed by Zackary Adler, which illustrates the formative years of these criminals.
The Rise of the Krays, premiered at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, is a frighteningly accurate account of the amateur boxers’ rise to power made up of extremely graphic fights, bullying tactics and horrendous assaults. Word has it that filming was interrupted by local residents, as they felt the movie would unnecessarily glamorize criminals. They needn’t be less worried, as there is absolutely nothing glamorous about this feature film.
The film is not exactly my cup of tea, to put it mildly. I struggled to cope with the movie’s constant scenes of violence. All in all, I felt it lacked a strong direction in several scenes. The best part? Simon Cotton’s portrayal of Ronnie Kray, outstanding and haunting.
If British gangster movies are what you’re into, give it a go, but be prepared for an unsettling amount of crude violence.
The Rise of the Krays is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday.
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