Content: -3 Excessive content and/or worldview problems.

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Roughly 50 obscenities and profanities; bloody, graphic murder and violence; theft, extortion and blackmail; and, homosexuality

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THE KRAYS, a true story of twin brothers who ruled London’s underworld during the 1960s, vividly depicts the brothers’ violent, evil world complete with mythic overtones.

In the opening scene, as she gives birth to the twins in 1934, the mother dreams she is a beautiful swan that has an egg with children’s voices emanating from it. This scene proves significant because it foreshadows various symbolic elements that recur throughout the film. A subsequent scene shows 10-year old Ronnie and Reggie receiving a baby alligator from their Aunt Rose. Fascinated, the boys dub their new pet “a monster,” but their Mum, Violet, complains about Aunt Rose spoiling them.

The movie’s thesis, in fact, suggests that the Krays are monstrous mama’s boys, the products of a female-smothered up-bringing. Fraternal twins, the boys grew up during the Blitz, raised by their indomitable, yet oddly oblivious mother and her tea-cozy coven of British housewife friends and relatives.

Men are either absent or ignored in this working-class woman’s world. Dad is a pathetic shadow, a ghost in his own house. When Mum discovers the boys hovering curiously around him as he sleeps, she frowns, “Don’t be disgusting. Nobody kisses your dad.”

Shortly, in an air raid shelter, the twins sit spellbound listening to a rendition of Jack the Ripper. Later, they exhibit a similar fascination with a two-headed child on display at a London sideshow. Their interests and tastes definitely run to the bizarre.

A turning point comes when the Krays involve themselves in a boxing match and experience delight in inflicting pain. The intensely sadistic streak in each, afterwards, seeks increasing fulfillment and expression.

The grown-up Krays are sleek, sociopathic thugs with a psychic bond and an immediate grasp of the secret of underworld success who establish themselves in a string of London clubs and wear Saville Row suits. Soon, they become the undisputed rulers of London’s underworld, hobnobbing with celebrities and rubbing out rival racketeers with gruesome efficiency. As one brother explains, “You know what glamour is? Fear. If people are afraid of you, you can do anything.”

Ronald is a repressed homosexual, capable of slitting open a cohort’s face when the mood strikes. A slithering boa constrictor entwined about Ron’s neck generally accompanies him when he attends strategy sessions. Reginald is the “nice” one; he marries a naive, middle-class girl who eventually cracks under the pressure of his extreme possessiveness and cruelty.

Meanwhile, business is booming, and the Krays go international. Asked by a visiting American gangster if they know the Beatles, a Kray replies with a narrow smile, “No, but I believe they know us.”

Part of the film’s intrigue is the juxtaposition between the miniskirts and mayhem of ’60’s London and the boys’ continuing relationship with their Mum, who cheerily serves tea and biscuits during their main strategy sessions with London’s premier hoods. With her eerie naivete, she tells them: “You make me proud with your Savin Rock clothes and monogrammed shirts… You look like little gentlemen.”

The brothers’ high-living crime spree ended in 1969 when they were convicted of a brutal gangland slaying and sentenced to life in separate prisons.

THE KRAYS draws some interesting conclusions about the brothers’ female-centered psyches. Surrounded since childhood by women who both resented and doted on them, the movie suggests that frustrated women produce monstrous men. The Krays are monsters as we see in several exceedingly graphic scenes: a sword plunged through a hand, or a blood-soaked murder committed while the radio blares “She’s Not There” by the Zombies.

Although THE KRAYS cannot be recommended, some important lessons can be gleaned from the film. First, a child’s parents exert a life-long influence over him. Thus, Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” is apropos. Second, a child learns values early, but they must be moral, Christian values; otherwise, he will “eat of the fruit” of his own way, “and be filled with his own devices” (Proverbs 1:31).

To some extent, we are not prepared for the boys’ demise. However, when the fear of the Lord is not present in one’s life, the path is open to every kind of evil. Thus, as we witness the Krays’ up-bringing with its inadequate, lax parental guidance and absent Christian values, we can more readily understand the culmination of evil in their lives. Beware of this film, the graphic, bloody murder scenes will not easily be erased from one’s mind.

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Christina Kounelias

Miramax Films

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New York, NY 10017