They say that the twins were cursed from birth…
Those who read my recent look at the films that I am looking forward to will notice that one of the additions to that list was “Legend”, the story about the Kray twins. It is a film I am looking forward to for many reasons, one of which is that it looks very stylish and is a subject that I know very little about. The is pretty much the only reason that I am about to watch a low budget telling of the Krays from earlier this year, and it’s one where I already have low expectations going in between because they have hired actors that don’t even look remotely alike to play the Kray twins.
Hiring actors who are not even related to play brothers is always an interesting casting choice in films when the two actors don’t look alike, but to cast actors that don’t even look remotely similar to play twins is taking it to a new step altogether. It’s a risk that I doubt will pay off as I watch the film.
Ronnie (Cotton) and Reggie (Leslie) are two young men who have developed a reputation for effective methods of persuasion, usually involving violence. The twins soon take up ownership of several establishments, including a snooker hall, and make short work of the threat of local gangsters who were “protecting” the venues from trouble.
As time goes on the twins’ reputation continues to grow during the 1960s, but with that reputation comes increased attention from the police and Ronnie is soon arrested following on from a vicious assault on the brother of another gangster. He is sentenced to several years in jail, eventually being diagnosed as clinically insane. Upon his release people are even more wary of the brothers, and even Reggie isn’t entirely sure of his safety from his brother.
Reggie decides that with new gambling laws coming into force, it’s time for the Krays to form a truce with the local Italian and Maltese gangs, much to Ronnie’s anger, and with Detective Inspector Leonard Read (Midwinter) breathing down their necks, surely it’s only a matter of time before they’re in trouble again.
Does it have the potential to be better than Legend?
In many ways I feel that this could potentially be a far more accurate telling of the story than Legend. Obviously Legend hasn’t even been released yet, so it’s hard to really compare the two, but Rise of the Krays definitely has that realistic feel to it. I think it will only real be possible to make realistic comparisons of the two if they both cover the same time period of the life of the twins.
Rise of the Krays covers the twins up until just after their first major court case is thrown out of court due to things such as a lack of evidence, and it appears that the rest of their story will be covered by the sequel “Fall of the Krays”, but after watching this film, I’m not really sure it actually warrants a sequel and would have probably been better served as a single film of maybe two hours long.
The reason I say this is that Rise of the Krays wasn’t actually that exciting or enjoyable. It was just sort of there, there was no real reason to ever go back and watch it a second time, and that’s not a good thing. I didn’t actually watch the film from start to finish in one go, infact I stopped three or four times to go and do other things and the film gave me no reason not to. It was a relatively simple plot, but because it was so simple it just wasn’t that enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad film, but it was someway off what I would call a good film as well.
The acting isn’t particularly stellar from anyone in the film, the only exception being Simon Cotton as Ronnie. Cotton’s performance is genuinely threatening and disturbed. He perfectly captures the essence of a man who is quite clearly insane and becoming more unhinged as time goes on. The final scene involves Ronnie torturing a man who has heavy debts with the twins and Cotton’s performance in that five or so minutes fills you with a genuine level of intensity and one where you sympathise with the man, and you feel his fear.
No-one other than Cotton puts in a memorable performance and whilst the character is obviously not going to allow as much creative freedom as that of Ronnie, Leslie’s performance as Reggie is somewhat bland. Whilst Reggie was regularly deemed to be the calmer of the two, Leslie’s lack of character in the role fails to really get you emotionally engaged in the scenes that he doesn’t share with Ronnie, and in many ways it feels like Cotton carried Leslie through the film.
In many ways I do feel somewhat bad for saying that Leslie’s performance was bland because of the far superior portrayal of Ronnie from Cotton, but after sitting through the near 110 minute run time, I’m struggling to think of any scene in which Leslie was memorable.
I think this problem is caused somewhat by not hiring actors that at least look alike. One of the key aspects of the upcoming Legend is that both roles are played by Tom Hardy, and whilst you appreciate that lower budget films might not be able to afford to have one actor doing both roles, you would have at least thought they’d hire two actors that look alike, possibly even real life brothers.
After looking into the history of the Kray twins after watching the film, this definitely feels very realistic and is possibly a more authentic telling of the story than the upcoming mainstream telling of the story in “Legend”, however, it takes more than an authentic storyline to be an engaging film and in many ways the film struggles to really get going or keep you interested.
Cotton does an excellent job as Reggie Kray, but he is the only actor that puts in a memorable performance in a film that is at least 20 minutes too long.
Probably the biggest indication of how I feel about this film is that whilst it’s not awful, it left me with absolutely no desire to watch the sequel.