DVD Movie Review | Rise of the Krays (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Freda Cooper 30.08.2015

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Rise of the Krays (UK Rating: 18)

Wait long enough and three films about the same subject will all come along at once - well, within the course of a fortnight, anyway. In this case, the subject is the Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie, two of the most notorious gangsters in British history and who ruled London's East End during the late '50s and '60s. The first of what could be considered an unholy trinity of movies arrives this Monday, 31st August, with the release of DVD Rise of the Krays.

Originally screened in cinemas a couple of months ago, it's managed to get in ahead of  documentary The Krays: Kill Order, which arrives in cinemas on Friday, 4th September and easily the most anticipated of the three, Legend, on Wednesday, 9th September, with Tom Hardy doing double duty as both twins. Rise of the Krays has gone down a more conventional route with the casting of its two leads, opting for two actors who are completely unrelated to each other, and, as the title implies, it's the first of two films about the Krays - after a rise comes a fall, right? The sequel - guess the name - is scheduled for release some time later in the year, but no date has been confirmed. Thankfully, it's not in the next fortnight.

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The early years of the twins' lives are filled in by the film's narrator, clearly one of their cohorts, but his name is never revealed. Perhaps that's to come in the sequel. Apparently, they both contracted diphtheria in their infancy and, although the doctors didn't expect Ronnie to survive, mother Violet insisted on taking them both home to care for them. By some miracle, they both made it, although Ronnie was "never the same again." Their boxing careers are only mentioned in passing, as well, yet the inevitable fights in the film bear testament to that, and, indeed, it starts with one of them. No surprise there, then.

The publicity blurb boasts that "Where other cameras pull away, Rise of the Krays maintains its nerve," implying that nothing is left to the imagination when it comes to the violence. Actually, that's not the case, and it's when director Zackary Adler leaves something to the audience's imagination that the film is at its best. Early on, when the twins are establishing their territory, they confront some rivals in a pub; it's not going to end well. Silent barmaid Madge (a small, but telling, un-credited cameo from Anita Dobson) is ordered downstairs, so she hears most of the ensuing carnage as she smokes a cigarette in the cellar. It's only when she returns upstairs to see the last punches being thrown, and pour two pints of mild for the twins, that her expression reflects what's happened. There are several other scenes in the same vein and they are far more repulsive than the ones where the violence is explicit.

Those touches of intelligence aside, Rise of the Krays is a pretty average film and much of that is down to the casting of the twins. Neither Kevin Leslie (Reggie), nor Simon Cotton (Ronnie) has the dramatic weight to carry the story that rests on their shoulders. There's only the occasional glimpse of a love-hate bond between the two, and Cotton isn't up to the additional demands of playing a schizophrenic that go with his role. The rest of the cast sadly offers more of the same standard.

Rated 5 out of 10


Being first in the queue isn't always an advantage, and it certainly isn't for Rise of the Krays. Given the potential of its story and characters, the result is just average, with some imaginative touches, yet mainly disappointingly uninspired central performances. How the other two films will fare remains to be seen, but this offering is decidedly middle of the frog and toad.

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