'The Krays' is another mob movie, but its setting makes it special

Movies

November 09, 1990|By Lou Cedrone

''The Krays'' is a mob film with a difference. This one was made in England and is about English mobsters. There are no Sicilians, no Irish and no Jewish mobsters on the scene. Some mention is made of ''the Maltese,'' and the British criminals make contact with their American counterparts, but for the most part, this is a mob movie about mobsters over there.

And it, like ''Miller's Crossing'' and ''GoodFellas,'' is exceptionally violent. The film, in fact, mirrors some of the violence that is seen in ''GoodFellas,'' but if you haven't seen enough of this, if you haven't seen enough mob movies this season, this is a pretty good one.

Actually, it's a very good one. It may run a bit long, but there is nothing boring about the film.

''The Krays'' is based on the lives of twin brothers who were born in 1934, in London. According to the film, they were the joy of their mother, who didn't seem to know what they were into when they turned to crime, something they did after joining the service and flooring a sergeant. That ended their careers in the military, and they were on their way to becoming full-time hoods.

At first, it was the protection racket, then it was nightclubs, and by the time they were in their early 30s, the Kray boys were big-timers. The local merchants never charged them anything. Wherever they went, they were treated with care, and for good reason. These were murderous young men who didn't hesitate to kill those who crossed them. Some did, and they are among the casualties in the film.

''The Krays'' also looks at the domestic lives of these two men. One falls in love with a young woman who takes drugs, probably because she is not happy being the wife of a mob leader. The other Kray likes boys, one in particular, but he isn't all that nice to him. He treats his lover as he might a wife.

Billie Whitelaw is the mother of the boys. She devotes her life to them. She is a veteran of the blitz, and so is her sister, who does a very moving monologue about what life was like during the war for the women who stayed at home.

In many ways, ''The Krays'' looks like most American-made mob movies. It includes the grandiose funerals, the weddings, the baptisms and the eating scenes. However, in the American-made mob films, the principals are usually seen dining in restaurants. In ''The Krays,'' it is tea at the home of the Krays, with mother serving, and all this is every bit as realistic as the corresponding scenes in the American films.

''The Krays'' opens here today. The theme is familiar, but the change in venue gives it distinction. Peter Medak directed, and Gary and Martin Kemp, brothers and members of Spandau Ballet, a rock group, are the Kray twins. If they play as well as they act, they must be worth hearing.

''The Krays''

*** Twin brothers take to crime in London.

CAST: Billie Whitelaw, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Victor Spinetti, Avis Bunnage

DIRECTOR: Peter Medak

RATING: R (language, violence, nudity)

RUNNING TIME: Two hours

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