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British Film Review: FALL OF THE KRAYS
Directed By Zackary Adler
‘Punishment is the preserve of the law…and around here, we are the law….’
The British gangster origins story continues in capturing the truly ambitious and detailed history of East London’s original gangsters, twins Ronnie (Simon Cotton – Rise of the Krays, The Monster and The Dark Hours) & Reggie Kray (Kevin Leslie – Reunion in Hell, Persona and Pearls of Africa).
This next chapter charts their elevation to celebrity, near rock star status in 1960’s London that would make One Direction look like Snow White and some other lesser fairy-tale characters by comparison. Money, power, respect, cars, bars, guns and high-class escorts are crowning features in this empire they’ve built. The Krays literally became the biggest game in town and they became famous for it.
From being seen with celebrities like Diana Dors, Joe Louis and Judy Garland, the Krays showed this edgy cool mix of celebrity culture with the commanding respect of the criminal world. This interestingly enough; mirrored Frank Sinatra’s connections with the Mafia in the USA at the time.
With this rise in status, we see Reggie marry his girl, Frances (Nicola Taggart – The Rise of the Krays and So You Want to Be a Writer) and planning to start a future filled with happiness, hope and promise without crime. The moment her mother begs her not to go through with it; citing that Reggie is too dangerous; brings a chord of sadness for the fate of this young woman. We know this one moment of hope and happiness will eventually be drained by Ronnie’s toxic influence on Reggie.
Ronnie has become the more dominant twin over The Firm and Reggie. Asserting himself as the unreliable wildcard in every event, from business transactions to simple drinks at the pub. Ronnie is the guy capable of making a whole room flinch just by the slightest move – now even The Firm, Dickie and Reggie look for his hair trigger responses and just have to follow through.
Continued shady dealings and descent back into organised crime; poisons the one positive thing in Reggie’s life and binds his loyalty to Ronnie with damning finality. The tragic irony of Reggie’s constant sacrificing of his marriage for business is that he knows on some level that he’s doing this for someone he really can’t save. Frances perceptively highlights that everyone knows but no one says anything.
The Krays celebrity cult status and success in the UK has attracted US criminal ties and even more money. However with more money brings a two-fold problem: competition in the form of rival crime family, the Richardson’s, who demonstrate a level of brutality that makes Ronnie’s own violence seem to be an ironic asset to The Firm. The second issue is in the determined Policeman Detective Chief Superintendent Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read (Danny Midwinter – Interview with a Hitman). Read’s world-weary, bruised copper is still unwavering in his commitment to down the crime-ring. Against the roaring energy and violence, we see a contrasting solemnness and sense of calm; which grounds the film very well and allows us to see a range of very human and wounded characters.
The Kray’s running of London marks a particular embarrassment to the police and they need a big, final victory or else lose London to the twins.
What threatens the Krays future continued success is Ronnie’s capacity for disproportionate viciousness; now reaching increasingly irrational levels that scare those closest. First a broken nose to a friend leads to branding on the face with a hot poker, then an insult leads to a bullet to the head in a public place.
Dickie (an excellent Phil Dunster – Lucky Man, The Film-maker’s Son) close friend and senior member of The Firm, becomes sickened by Ronnie’s taste feats for cruelty and can’t see how they can keep the empire going with such a truly dangerous liability. Dickie moves front and centre to become the conscience of The Firm and the film, the one person who sees that Ronnie and to an extent Reggie; both have fallen far from the big dream.
The minor subplot of Dickie’s relationship with Lisa (Alexa Morden – Skins, Beautiful Devils) provides a nice, striking contrast against Reggie’s own dying, miserable marriage to Frances. Dickie initially (and stupidly) criticizes Lisa for being a high-class escort when he’s involved in organized crime. Their relationship is frank, ballsy and upfront. No illusions or tricks because they both know who and what they are and they recognise that there is more to each of them than their roles.
Reggie and Dickie’s restrained reactions carry the same grim, inevitable feeling: Ronnie cannot be saved and there is nothing they can do. Yet they all follow him down the road because of the same reason – loyalty. The FALL OF THE KRAYS begins when the consequences of Ronnie’s blood trail line up, the police mount their case and the circle of loyalty begins to break apart.
American Director Zackary Adler (Rise of the Krays, Something in Between and I’m Reed Fish) does a masterful job second time over in using the iconic period of the 1960’s as a character along with driving out strong performances from the cast. The characters are complicated, broken, flawed and human.
The direction creates an authentic 1960’s East London we can believe in with convincing style and appeal. Luke Palmer’s traditional camera style grips the eye and doesn’t allow you to ever take your gaze from the screen.
Ken Brown and Sebastian Brown’s script just continues strong from the first and hits the right marks for the period. We stay in 1960’s East London because of the detail and tone from the Writers’ extremely close and rich perspective. The characters are raw and people the audience can access even for a short time.
We again get to see the synchronised chemistry between the two leads as brothers. We connect with the clash found in loyalty to blood against reason. Cotton and Leslie are excellent mirrors of Ronnie and Reggie: reasonable and illogical, sense and madness, chaos and order but Reggie begins to lose himself from the mounting problems Ronnie heaps on that he must clean up in order to protect his brother from others and himself.
When Ronnie goes underground, Reggie even takes on some of his darker qualities in business – almost as though Ronnie is that sinister voice in his head that never really left and the twins can never really be separated. The most effective element drawn out between the lead actors is the painful progressive division we see between two people who should have the strongest, unspoken connection; who gradually become so out of sync that they lose all similar features that attached them.
In RISE OF THE KRAYS, we see the unity of the Kray twins, in FALL OF THE KRAYS, we see the disintegration and disconnection of everything they built up. A strong, stylish conclusion to a well known British Gangster Biopic.
FALL OF THE KRAYS will be released on VOD 14 March and DVD 28 March 2016.
Win A Copy of FALL OF THE KRAYS on Blu-Ray HERE.
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