Their power was born from fear, their respect demanded by brutality so horrific that eventually even their own turned against them.
Chinks began to appear in the seemingly impregnable armour of the Krays and London breathed a sigh of relief when – in 1969 – Ronnie and Reggie were sentenced to 30 years each, thus marking the end of their bloody careers.
Peter Medak’s brutally stark biopic dwells on the duo’s Oedipal relationship with their mother while implying some nebulous connection between Ronnie’s homosexuality and psychotic violence.
Writer Philip Ridley moderately glamorises their violent world and attributes too much humanity to what were basically just a pair of terrifying villains.
From their deprived childhood upbringing by a domineering mother Violet (Billie Whitelaw) and layabout father (Alfred Lynch) in the 1930s, Ronnie and Reggie had an almost telepathic understanding from their early school ground bully days to completing National Service together.
From the moment when they beat each other up at a fairground boxing match, an inseparable bond was formed as their mother lectured her two boys that they stand united and not fight each other.
They rapidly rise through a spot of GBH and protection rackets to the murderous rule of the post-war East End underworld.
Their gangland empire was born from intimidation, their respect demanded by brutality so horrific that eventually even their own turned against them. At the height of their notoriety, the twin’s private lives take contrasting routes; Reggie falls in love with cherub-like Frances (Kate Hardie), while Ronald gets involved in a homosexual relationship with one of his henchmen.
After Frances commits suicide Ron’s susceptibility to bouts of irrational violence and domination of his grieving brother causes chinks to appear in the seemingly impregnable armour of the Krays.
After the brazen murder of two rival villains, Jack ‘The Ha’’ McVitie (Tom Bell) and George Cornell (Steven Berkoff), London breathed a sigh of relief in 1969 as they were sentenced to 30 years each, thus marking the end of their bloody reign.
Billie Whitelaw and Susan Fleetwood flesh out the family background, while Tom Bell and Stephen Berkoff are convincing villainous victims and the world of working-class clans steeped in a rough, sort-of-honourable, violence is powerfully done.
Jack ’The Hat’ McVitie