Friday, 18 September 2015

The Krays (1990)

It's an interesting one to revisit this, after watching Legend.

As a compare and contrast exercise, Legend is much more about light and shade and, dare I say it, glamour than The Krays. Peter Medak's film is utterly preoccupied with the dark heart of its subject matter, delivering a sinister film dripping with portentous, doom laden menace right from the off with its opening animated frame of Ma Kray's avian, natal dream. Billie Whitelaw is impeccable as their mother, Violet and it is her relationship with her boys that takes up so much of the action, something which Legend perhaps wisely shuns for much of its running time and, when it does depict her it chooses to paint her in a much less sympathetic light than this film does.

So, this is much darker. But with so much of the story playing out more like a horror film than any gangster movie - complete with spooky identical twin children playing the junior Krays delivering their lines in unison - it's a real shame that it wimps out on exploring the psychotic nature of Ronnie Kray in the same manner that Legend does. In The Krays, Gary Kemp's portrayal suggests little more than a hot tempered hood, and his psychoses and also his sexual preferences are presented in the most chaste and safe of manners. It's also fair to say that the former Spandau Ballet stars, the Kemp brothers (who are not twins it's worth pointing out), are not really great actors; Martin's not too bad in the role of Reggie but Gary has big shoes to fill with Ron. Neither match up very well to Tom Hardy's dual performances in Legend; as I say, Ronnie's character is lessened and Gary Kemp would never have been able to convince if they fully explored him anyway, and the movie fails to tell the story of Reggie's ill fated marriage to the tragic Frances as effectively as the latest film either, despite some strong performances in these scenes from Martin Kemp and the lovely Kate Hardie.

And yet, The Krays is still an OK film. As I said in my review for Legend there isn't many films out there officially exploring the bloody reign of the brothers and, as this is the first, it deserves our attention. It's a film I can still vividly recall watching for the first time, because I was only 10 or 11 years old at the time. It was when the film was released onto VHS and me and my mates all wanted to see it as we were fascinated by gangsters and gangster movies; one of our favourite playground games was 'Al Capone and The Untouchables'. My parents said we could watch it providing we got it from the video club ourselves - in other words, if the person in the store was daft enough to loan out an 18 to a bunch of 10/11 year olds then they would allow us to watch it. We spun them some fib about being sent to the shop to get it for our dad, which they swallowed and let us rent it out. With our sticky hands we hurried back to watch it in our front room on a hot summer's day with the curtains drawn, so we could see the screen properly. About 30 minutes in, around the time Ronnie slices a guy's face in half, one of our lot - the most vocally keen to watch, in fact - left my house looking decidedly green around the gills! Because of that viewing experience at such a formative age, I can pretty much recite whole lines from the film word for word, and I found myself doing so tonight even though its been several years since I last watched this.

Oh and I still have a crush on Kate Hardie.

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