The Krays Review
The British have always produced very distinguishable organised crime dramas, atypical when compared to the largely mafia-orientated alternatives from across the ocean. Normally set in the East End of London (or featuring characters from that infamous area), there have been several decent entries over the years, from Bob Hoskins in the Long Good Friday and Michael Caine in Get Carter, to more recent efforts like Gangster No.1 and Sexy Beast and, of course, the stylish productions of Guy Richie.
The nineties saw the release of this movie, The Krays, telling the tale of these twins, two of the most notorious London gangsters that ever lived, who ruled a significant part of post-war London for several decades. However, rather than paint the picture of relentless violence and oppression that you might expect, this movie takes a much more intimate look at their psychotic pair.
Brought up by two extremely dominant and powerful maternal figures (their mother and aunt), the Kray twins - Ronnie and Reggie - grow up rejecting almost all other forms of authority, refusing to be drafted into National Service and instead adopting a criminal life: something which they proved to be particularly successful in. Ruling with blades and guns and an unpredictable, uncontrollable fury, they carve out a niche for themselves in the London underworld and swiftly make their way up the food chain, seemingly impervious to the actions of their rival gangs.
In fact the biggest, if not only, source of weakness to these two comes from their own personal relationships and the fact that the emotional damage to one of them is resonated through to the other. Despite being overtly psychotic - they positively took pleasure in their own violent actions - and being surrounded by gangs who all wanted to end their reign, the only real damage that they took was of the emotional kind. It is a strangely poignant paradox that we find the strength and invulnerability that they had as a united pair was also the barrier that prevented them from truly forming relationships with anybody else.
The twin brother members of the band Spandau Ballet, Gary and Martin Kemp (the latter of which you may also remember from Eastenders) were chosen to portray these powerful but schizophrenic gangsters. Martin's Reggie is easily the more restrained of the two (if either of them could ever be described as restrained), exhibiting little of the paranoia that his brother was fuelled by. Gary's Ronnie is less refined but more demented, finding it hard to countenance the feelings that he has for both his own brother and his gay lover with the violent world he lived in, instead choosing just to embrace the whole barbarism of it all. It should also be worth noting Billie Whitelaw as the powerful mother, Susan Fleetwood as the almost equally dominant aunt, Kate Hardie as Reggie's feeble but overwhelmed girlfriend, and Steven Berkoff hamming it up (as usual) as a rival gangster.
The Krays is another landmark British crime drama, painting an unusual portrait of the infamous psychotic twins, cleverly relying more on the mysticism of the almost unstoppable duo than on an overwhelming series of violent actions that they took (the death count is remarkably low). I don't think that the twins themselves could have expected a more respectful and loving portrayal than this.