We’re all excited for Legend, the new film about the Kray twins starring Tom Hardy aren’t we? Well before that comes out the good people that brought us The Rise of the Foot Soldier and other “don’t mug me off”, “do one son!” epics bring us part one (yep part one!) of the their own take on the Kray’s; Rise of the Krays. Yes they do enjoy a good rising.
Deciding to focus heavily on the brothers criminal deeds, this version eschews the female relationships that Peter Medak’s 1990 The Krays leaned so heavily on. Bille Whitelaw’s mother loomed large over that film, here their dear old mum barely gets a look in. What we do get a healthy slab of though is claret and scenes of suited men talking in rooms about crimes they committed in the scene before or the upcoming scene. The writers Ken and Sebastian Brown have also chosen to focus more on Ronnie Kray’s mental illness and paranoia. This manifesting on screen as him trapped in cells, banging walls and screaming at people who aren’t there all in glorious slow-mo.
Director Zackary Adler certainly has a good eye. Rise of the Krays is by no means a bad film to look at. He’s also a man who clearly likes his Scorsese films. The spectre of Goodfellas hangs as large Mrs Kray did in the 1990s film. Voice over from an unintroduced narrator helpfully tells us when things are going good or bad (in much the same irritating way Evan Davis does on Dragon’s Den, yes you’re just repeating what we all heard him say). Scene’s of stylised violence played out to a 1960s soundtrack scream Henry Hill and crew, even the film’s fractured plotting slightly resembles the Goodfellas-structure. The difference being that that film created compelling characters in fascinating situations. Rise of the Krays has a bunch of actors in suits with cockney accents giving it large about building empires and with a timeline that bounces around merrily from one stabbing to the next without more thought to bridging the gap.
Another misstep for the film is the casting of it’s Ronnie and Reggie (Simon Cotton and Kevin Leslie respectively). Firstly they look absolutely nothing like each other, which is quite a big deal when you’re making a film about identical twins. Then there’s the performances themselves. Kevin Leslie is practically monotone as Reggie. Aiming to play him as the more grounded of the pair he comes across as the least convincing gangster in the room, he feels more like the guy who should be picking up the sandwiches. In comparison Simon Cotton is practically captivating as Ronnie. At first his more theatrical performance seems welcome… and then quickly starts to grate. It seems that to comes across as unhinged all you need to do is sound smarmy then start shaking your head like your convulsing and scream slogans at the top of your lungs. In the end neither convince as murderous criminals they just sound like obnoxious dickheads.
The makers of Rise of the Krays are obviously going for the loyal following who enjoy straight to DVD London gangster romps. What this is though is surprisingly ham-fisted melodrama. Attempts have been made to deal with mental-illness, family loyalty and touching ever-so-slightly, but so-slightly it comes across as near homophobic, homosexuality all wrapped up in a violent bow but most of the time it’s just laughable.
Oh yeah and we still have Fall of The Krays to look forward to.
Now let’s all do one and go watch Legend.
Dir: Zackary Adler
Scr: Ken Brown, Sebastian Brown
Starring: Kevin Leslie, Simon Cotton, Danny Midwinter
Prd: Sebastian Brown
DOP: Luke Palmer
Run time: 118 mins
Rise of the Krays is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now.