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British Film Review: Rise Of The Krays
Directed By Zackary Adler
Genre: British Gangster
‘We grew up in a world where men on both sides of the law; were measured by a single store of values. Violence was the currency of choice.’
This latest British gangster origins story is a truly authentic piece of cinematic history. In the RISE OF THE KRAYS, We begin with Ronnie (Simon Cotton) & Reggie (Kevin Leslie) as teens in East London and how they came to become feared and respected gangsters. We see the twins’ seemingly unbreakable bond develop from them both contracting Diphtheria as babies, to schoolboy boxing champions, to teen guys on the street to full-fledged organised crime family frontmen.
The biopic is told from the perspective of one of their long-time friend’s who survived both brothers, the voiceover narrative maintains the twin’s primary strategy in life and business – strike first.
Coming right on cue against the eagerly anticipated rival in Tom Hardy’s LEGEND, this low budget project is directed by Zackary Adler and co-written by Ken & Sebastian Brown. Ken Brown grew up in the Hackney area where the Krays grew to fame. A fact that builds a sense of rich authenticity to the story’s foundations.
The story deftly picks through the burgeoning, violent tendencies of the gang, the equally heavy-handed brutality of police officers, to Ronnie’s development as the crazed businessman with a penchant for reading Winston Churchill’s speeches and acting on those words in extreme ways. We have a well -rounded origins story that takes a kaleidoscopic approach to events shifting from different groups and perspectives cleanly.
From taking over the Regal Snooker bar, the Krays began to build their empire while simultaneously taking on every major gang in London. Once the east end is covered, they move onto the West End, clubs and gambling to cover more territory. What is consistent is the sense of loyalty and the code between gangs and the world they live in. As success expands, the violence upgrades from fists, to knives, swords to guns and Ronnie’s paranoia and taste for blood marks changes to that code and the rules they all follow and looks set to damage the world they want to run.
The two leads Cotton and Leslie show a great synchronicity as the brothers Kray, embracing the words ‘The immortal twosome’ as used in the film. Their scenes together are raw, powerful and pained as the twins who are strongest together but when they lose connection, everything falls apart.
Cotton fully embraces the darker elements of Ronnie’s personality and the quietly psychotic, dangerous behaviour brought on by his schizophrenia. Through his individual scenes intercutting with flashbacks of Ronnie as a sick child with his mother, extreme close-up shots on his face, we begin to gain an understanding of his descent into madness and how his actions divided the gang.
Leslie by comparison plays Reggie, as the more the gentleman criminal, using menace and business savvy to expand rather than picking fights. He reflects the human cost of Ronnie’s fearsome rule with equal quiet strength and conflicted pain at losing his twin to his mental illness. He sees he is losing Ronnie and there is nothing he can do to save him. The worse Ronnie becomes, the more driven Reggie becomes to turn away from organised crime and look to legitimate means to keep their success.
The developing personality differences become increasing evident as Ronnie becomes more impulsive and blood thirsty, Reggie becomes more reasonable, calm and protective. Reggie alongside friend, Dickie (Phil Dunster) act as mirrors against Ronnie to show degrees of acceptable violence and behaviour in this world.
The production value and period look of 1950’s – 1960’s London is an amazing, aesthetic wonderland paying respectful tribute to the East End of London at that time.
Zackary Adler delivers a well constructed origins story that gives us a universal picture of the organised crime world from various gangs perspective. He creates a rich, well drawn out world and the cast work together cohesively to generate three-dimensional, honest characters who understand their world responds to violence and respect and look for their own means to find their places in it.
Ken & Sebastian Brown’s script is detailed and captures the tone of the period extremely well. We believe in the world and the characters because of Ken’s Brown’s closeness to the action and this draws the audience in and keeps them in the story.
RISE OF THE KRAYS is a standout film; which hits several good notes for the genre and against predecessors.
RISE OF THE KRAYS is released on DVD & Blu-Ray 31 August 2015
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