Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Krays: Kill Order

They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world... and me and my brother ruled London. We were f*****g untouchable.” – Ron Kray

In the 1960s, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray were the most feared gangsters in London. But with 1990’s The Krays and 2015’s arguably affectionately titled Legend, there has always been a certain sense of glorifying and glamorising their lives for cinema – mainly due to their mythical, celebrity-like status. Director Chris Matthews and true crime writer/friend of the Krays Bernard O’Mahoney decided that it is time to tell ‘the truth behind the legend’ with this ‘definitive documentary’. Out now on DVD comes The Krays: Kill Order.

The main pull factor for The Krays: Kill Order is the fact that all of the interviews in the film are with Ronald and Reginald’s contemporaries – friends, allies and enemies – and not the usual fluff you get with these documentaries. There’s no ‘crime experts’ or ‘historians’ here. It’s all ageing faces from the day. Of course, differing accounts of certain stories mean you have to take some things with a pinch of salt, but there is nothing more engrossing than a gangland tale coming directly from the mouth of someone who was there, such as Freddie Foreman or Eddie Richardson. I should state here that I don’t condone violence or criminal acts – a lot of people wouldn’t even watch a Krays documentary because they are so opposed. But to me, it’s history. Plain and simple. Whether or not you agree with the dark side of the story is irrelevant. Just like watching a documentary about a serial killer doesn’t make you one, watching this doesn’t make you a gangster. Furthermore, the decision to interview the Krays’ enemies as well as friends completely eliminates any bias and stops Kill Order from being a love letter to the twins, something the recent Legend has been accused of by some. You will hear both sides to the story here so be prepared. But there’s no brainwashing here or attempts to sway you either way – atleast up until the somewhat damning closing statements.

Coming in at a feature-length 90 minutes, Kill Order could’ve easily been a dull, slow affair. Thankfully, due to expert pacing and some really absorbing anecdotes, the film flies by – despite containing a book’s worth of information. The story is told thankfully without cheesy reconstructions but rather purely through the power of story-telling, with help from Freddie Foreman, Frankie Fraser, Eddie Richardson, Albert Donaghue and Lenny Hamilton to name but a few. We’re also given some rare audio recordings of an aged Reggie Kray before his death, and presented with countless photographs – some rare, some iconic. For the most part, Kill Order doesn’t feel like a documentary. It feels like sitting down with these men and being told these dark tales. And funnily enough, there is a market for that. Many of these faces can actually be hired for party speaking engagements, because (and I quote from Eddie Richardson’s website) ‘diners relish the true stories of gangland London’! Well, that’s my next dinner party sorted!Have you tried the ham? It tastes even nicer while you’re listening to stories about murder!

I admit, before watching this I wasn’t massively well-informed on the history. I’ve seen Legend and The Krays, sure. I’ve had a scan of the twins’ Wikipedia page. But I haven’t read any books or seen any other documentaries. As such, a lot of the information here was new to me and the film came off as highly informative. I can’t possibly speak for any of the Krays’ fans who’ve read one of the 30+ books on the subject – for all I know, this could all be old information now, repackaged in a new film to cash in on the release of Legend. But as a companion piece to that film, or someone who wants to learn the key faces, names and facts of the Kray story, Kill Order is a pretty damn good place to start.

Extremely engrossing, informative and well-made, The Krays: Kill Order gets a solid 5/5.


Sam Love

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