Ronnie & Reggie Kray a Robin Hood Story
I have always had a fascination with the criminal underworld, especially the dealings of the Kray twins who ruled the London scene during the 60s and were forever in the press right up until recent years. So when in 1990, Peter Medak released his biopic "The Krays" I was one of the first in the queue to see it. Starring the Kemp brothers, Gary and Martin, in the roles of Ronnie and Reggie, the movie documents the life of the notorious Kray twins from their early days, right on up until the height of their notoriety.
Raised by their over-bearing mother and aunts, Ronnie and Reggie Kray (Gary and Martin Kemp) were soon inducted into a world just on the wrong side of law as they became childhood bullies. With their father being a layabout gambler and their grandfather a former prize boxer, short of a couple of marbles, their only parental guidance came from their mother Violet (Billie Whitelaw - Frenzy) who taught them to be strong, crafty and conceited. Having progressed from childhood bullies into small time thugs, they intimidated the local neighbourhood with their violence and protection rackets. Soon they gained control of several local clubs and as their legal and illegal dealings grew bigger they became involved with the American mob scene. Despite their dubious success as London gangsters, personal circumstances started to take a toll on their business as their irrational behaviour and lust for brutal violence started to dominate their affairs.
Although "The Krays" is based on the notorious London gangsters, the movie does serve as much more than this, with it not just focussing on their criminal and violent dealings, but also their relationship with each other and the important part that their mother played in their life. What is particularly good is that although some people heralded the Krays as modern day Robin Hoods, who only targeted other criminals, "The Krays" does not play up to this and tries to provide a neutral and well balanced look on their lives, showing the various sides to their characters and what they did.
What is very noticeable through about "The Krays" is the relationship that Ronnie and Reggie had with their mother Violet, and even when they were hitting the height of their violence, she still remained a dominant force. Although this did show a human side to the notorious gangsters it also highlighted how the dominance of their mother helped mould them into the strong, arrogant characters that they were.
It was also interesting to see the relationship that Ronnie and Reggie had with each other, which included Ronnie's, an open homosexual, jealousy of his brother's relationship with women. "The Krays" does portray them as having some sort of strange bond which befalls twins, as to whether this is true or not is impossible to say, but it did provide some sort of reasoning behind their actions. It was also interesting to see how Ronnie's psychotic nature soon started to manifest itself in Reggie's behaviour as they both became more violent than ever.
The only negativity I have over "The Krays" and in particular the storyline is the numerous elements of the Krays life that were left out. Although it attempts to not over glamorize their illegal dealings, and in doings so not make them out to be heroes, it does not really show the depths that they would sink to in pursuit of their goal. Having read a few books on the Krays, it becomes very apparent that the Medak's movie does exclude some of the darker deeds that the brothers did and in doing so softens the harshness of how vicious Ronnie and Reggie really were.
What a risk it must have been to cast Gary and Martin Kemp in the roles of Ronnie & Reggie, mainly known for their band Spandau Ballet, they had very little acting experience. Well that risk paid off, and they put in very fine performances for such inexperienced actors. That is not to say they were with out faults, but as a whole they were absolutely convincing as the villainous brothers. But the real star of "The Krays" has to be Billie Whitelaw as their mother Violet. Her performance clearly depicted the dominance that Violet had over her sons and also how much she treasured them, to the extent that she was blinkered over how villainous her boys truly were.
Also putting in good supporting performances are the likes of Tom Bell, Steven Berkhoff, Jimmy Jewel, Victor Spinetti and Kate Hardie. None of them match up to that of Billie Whitelaw but then, none of them actually let the side down.
What this all boils down o is that even though "The Krays" has its flaws, most notably the decision to skip over some of the more dubious element of their criminal activities, I can't but help enjoy the film. As a whole the performances are good, the storyline is interesting and it is an insightful look at how Britain's most notorious gangsters came to be and why they are still held in high esteem by many people, even now long after their demise.